Unless the Senate moves some important paperwork within the next few days, Office of Personnel Management Director Donald J. Devine could be temporarily out of work.
Devine's four-year term as head of the federal personnel agency expires March 26. And because of Senate rules governing nominations made by the president, Devine is running out of time.
President Reagan formally renominated Devine last Friday. The paperwork from the White House was delivered to the clerk of the Senate Monday.
Devine, who has to be reconfirmed by the full Senate, must answer questions from members of the Governmental Affairs Committee in writing before hearings are held. Once his replies reach the committee, Senate rules require that three days elapse before a hearing date is announced. Then there is a nine-day wait before hearings can begin.
What that adds up to is that Devine's hearing can't start until after his current term of office has expired. Even after the committee finishes, the full Senate must vote on his renomination.
Devine has made a lot of friends -- and enemies -- in Congress because he spearheaded the drive to cut the federal payroll and the cost of government employe-retiree benefit programs. All of the major federal and postal worker unions oppose his renomination, but the Senate is expected to approve him anyhow.
"I expect he will be reconfirmed," a Senate source said. "But this little quirk of the calendar does give his opponents a chance to let him twist in the wind for a little while."
OPM officials said yesterday they are confident Devine will be reconfirmed. An aide said Devine hopes to be confirmed on time, "but he said if he gets a little vacation time, that is all right with him."
If Devine does have a break in service, deputy director Loretta Cornelius will fill in.