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Like It's 1993

By Al Kamen
Monday, April 6, 2009

Does it sometimes feel as if the Obama administration is mostly Clinton redux? There's a reason for that. Fully 42 percent of Team Obama's picks for Senate-confirmed positions so far worked in the Clinton administration.

And if they appear to come from elite, private schools, well, they do. In fact, about one-fourth of those named so far either attended or taught at Harvard, to name just one esteemed institution. On another front, men are outnumbering women by more than 2 to 1 in the top jobs.

The Obama folks, with a burst of activity on the personnel front in recent weeks, continued to far outpace all recent administrations in terms of total nominees announced, nominated or confirmed. And, with some help from the Senate and some cooperation from minority Republicans, the administration ended last week with 58 confirmed appointees in various Cabinet and sub-Cabinet jobs, nearly equaling the record set by the Reagan administration.

As of Friday, Obama had choices for 153, or 31 percent, of the 486 senior positions The Washington Post is tracking.

For more on this, go to http://www.washingtonpost.com/headcount.

PERSONNEL PROGRESS

The Senate confirmed 14 nominees last week for top posts in the Obama administration, and majority Democrats are confident that, as soon as the lawmakers return from their spring recess, they will be able to confirm career diplomat Christopher Hill as ambassador to Iraq.

Acting shortly after midnight Thursday, the Senate confirmed Jane Lute as deputy secretary of homeland security, W. Scott Gould as deputy secretary of veterans affairs, John Berry as director of the Office of Personnel Management and Karen Gordon Mills as administrator of the Small Business Administration.

Four top State Department officials were confirmed: Richard Verma as assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs, Esther Brimmer as assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs, Rose Gottemoeller as assistant secretary of state for verification and compliance, and Melanne Verveer as ambassador at large for global women's issues. Also, Army Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry was confirmed as ambassador to Afghanistan.

The Senate also confirmed two top Pentagon officials: James N. Miller Jr. as deputy undersecretary of defense for policy and Alexander Vershbow as assistant secretary for international security affairs.

At the Agriculture Department, Kathleen A. Merrigan was confirmed as deputy secretary, James W. Miller was confirmed as undersecretary for farm and foreign agricultural services, and Joe Leonard Jr. was confirmed as assistant secretary.

Democratic sources said they were unable to obtain GOP consent to approve Hill's nomination, but they were confident they will have the votes needed to confirm him, even if that requires 60 votes to break a filibuster, when the Senate returns on April 20.

Three nominees to head Justice Department divisions, Democrats said, are likely to be confirmed by the Senate that same day. They are Tony West for the civil division, Lanny Breuer for the criminal division and Christine Varney for the antitrust division.

ITCHING TO ATTEND?

Didn't get an invite to the NATO summit over the weekend? Feeling left out? Not to worry: You can still go to a summit.

It's the National Bed Bug Summit, sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency's office of pesticide programs. It's "free and open to the public," an e-mail we received last week said. "Seating is available on a first come basis. No RSVP or advance registration is required."

But it might be wise to go early. And don't go to the originally announced location at EPA headquarters. Enough people are interested in what is in fact a growing problem nationwide that there's been a change in venue. The meeting, to be held April 14 and 15, is now at the Sheraton Crystal City, according to an e-mail we got Thursday.

OUT OF GAS

Something of a shocker to see the Obama administration fire Rick Wagoner as CEO of ailing General Motors. His departure came after the administration said neither GM nor Chrysler had come up with adequate turnaround plans to merit taxpayer bailout money.

Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D), during a round of television appearances, called Wagoner a "sacrificial lamb" and said that he'd worked hard for many years to turn things around. It was a dramatic change from just two months ago, when Granholm and Wagoner appeared together at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, seemingly confident of better times.

"Here to Stay," said the sign Granholm waved about. Well, maybe not. He's gone, and she's term-limited in 2010.

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