Senate keeps nominees waiting

By Al Kamen
Friday, April 30, 2010

The good news for Democrats these days is that, with the health-care overhaul done, the Senate is moving on financial reform and then maybe to climate change and even immigration reform. The bad news, for administration nominees waiting to be confirmed, is that the Senate's ambitious legislative agenda means the nominees may well have to wait a while longer.

There was a mini-breakthrough a month ago when President Obama used his recess-appointment authority to put 15 nominees into their jobs. Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) also picked up the needed 60 votes to break Republican holds on three nominees -- D.C. Superior Court pick Marisa DeMeo, who was nominated in March 2009, and two federal judges were confirmed.

But with the Senate trying to move at warp speed these days -- and the GOP still working the brakes -- don't look for a lot of action on the confirmation front for a while.

As it stands, 15 nominees are being considered on the Senate floor for positions included in our Head Count at But that doesn't include 23 federal judges (some dating to November), federal prosecutors, and some members of boards and commissions, for a total of 84, all twisting slowly, slowly . . .

No word on strawberries

About 100 or so lawyers at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission are in the midst of a move and will become the first tenants in a new building a couple of blocks down from the headquarters on First Street NE. Since FERC regulates electricity, natural gas and oil transmission, the commission appears most anxious that its offices meet the independent U.S. Green Building Council's certification standards.

"FERC is subject to unannounced inspections at any time to ensure that all" the standards are met, a move notice explained, so the office site must be "clean and orderly all day, every day." Deviation "from the plan to reduce paper waste and personal items," the instructions say, "will risk our . . . certification."

They assume, correctly, that lawyers are highly skilled deviators, so the "Move Do's and Don'ts Guide" is specific: "Prohibited items: Air Purifiers; clock radios and docking stations; coffee grinders; coffee makers; fans of any size; heaters of any size; humidifiers of any size; lamps of any kind; microwaves; personally owned printers; refrigerators; tea pots of any size; toasters; water coolers."

You're advised not to take personal books and documents with you on the move. And forget about the plants.

"Foliage will be strictly monitored within the [new] space due to requirements stipulated by the level of . . . certification," the instruction says. But a "reasonable amount of small plants are permitted on window sills. Plants are not permitted in common use spaces such as the reception areas." Take home "excess plants." (Loop warning: Small plants have a tendency to grow. You'll want to keep the pruners handy.)

Also, we're told there'll be no electric pencil sharpeners. Switch to mechanical pencils, or maybe bring a small knife to whittle a decent point. "No electronic tea makers will be allowed, tea can be made utilizing water and the microwaves provided." By implication, you're allowed a cup and maybe a saucer, possibly some sugar.

And a long tradition of gathering to gossip at the water cooler is over. "No water coolers will be allowed" in the new space, the guide says, because of certification standards. But "each [approved] refrigerator is equipped with a filtered water spout on the inside to resolve this issue."

So, as soon as that formaldehyde-like smell dissipates, let's meet by the fridge?

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