Senate confirms Martha Johnson as head of General Services Administration

By Ed O'Keefe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 5, 2010

The Senate confirmed Martha N. Johnson on Thursday to take over the General Services Administration, ending two years of unstable leadership by four acting agency heads.

Senators voted 96 to 0 to confirm Johnson, who had waited longer than any Obama administration nominee for a vote. Sen. Christopher S. Bond (R-Mo.) had placed a hold on her nomination in July amid disagreements with the GSA about construction of a federal building in Kansas City.

On Wednesday, Bond called the agency "a tangled mess of bureaucracy I have been fighting the last five years," but he said his decision to block Johnson had nothing to do with her qualifications.

The delay prompted the woman hired to serve as Johnson's chief of staff to resign and return to the private sector. President Obama criticized Bond's hold during a meeting Wednesday with Senate Democrats.

"I'm delighted to hear that GSA is a very important agency to him," Johnson said of Obama's comments in an interview Wednesday afternoon.

"I have always felt enormous support and clarity that [the White House] believed that what I was bringing to GSA was the right set of experiences," Johnson said. "I'm just looking forward to putting that into action."

The GSA manages more than 11 percent of the government's contracting dollars and owns or operates about 8,600 federal buildings, 213,000 vehicles and the popular Web site.

Senators also confirmed M. Patricia Smith, on a 60 to 37 vote, to serve as the Labor Department's top lawyer. Republican senators had objected to Smith's nomination, saying her sworn testimony in a hearing contradicted documents obtained by GOP committee staffers about New York's Wage Watch program.

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