Two Republican senators took a key presidential nominee to task yesterday over how the White House has handled federal-state relations and long-standing problems of waste, fraud and mismanagement in the government.
Sens. Fred D. Thompson (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Governmental Affairs Committee, and George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio) voiced their frustrations to Sally Katzen at her confirmation hearing for the job of deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
Voinovich seemed to throw Katzen's nomination into doubt when he told her he was opposed to her confirmation. Asked where Thompson stood on Katzen's nomination, a committee spokeswoman said he would have no comment.
Katzen is widely regarded in the administration as a sharp and tough policymaker. A Washington lawyer, she has worked for the administration since 1993 and won early praise for bringing more openness to how federal regulations are made.
In Clinton's first term, the Senate confirmed her to head the OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. She later served as deputy director of the National Economic Council.
The OMB has not had a confirmed deputy for management issues since July 1997, when John A. Koskinen resigned. His designated successor was not confirmed and, after a period as a recess appointment, left in March. The job involves almost daily oversight of federal policies on regulation, finance, procurement and computer technology.
During yesterday's hearing, Voinovich, a former Ohio governor, faulted the White House and Katzen for issuing a presidential directive on federalism in 1998 without consulting with state and local officials.
The order--which involved such issues as federal preemption of state laws and state and local waivers from federal rules--caused an uproar in the states. The White House backtracked and issued a revised order this summer.
Katzen acknowledged that the original directive was a "terrible mistake" that she had spent much of the last year trying to rectify. She pledged support for improved federal relations with states and expressed confidence the new order would "live up to the expectations we have."
Thompson criticized the administration's efforts to implement a 1993 law aimed at improving the performance of federal agencies and said agencies have not addressed half of the "high-risk" programs identified by congressional auditors as vulnerable to waste, fraud and abuse.
That inadequate response, Thompson said, showed that agencies "don't have any fear" and were "thumbing their nose at the legislative branch."
Katzen agreed the government faces serious management problems but said the 1993 Government Performance and Results Act "seems to be taking hold" in agencies and is receiving more attention than previous experiments in management reform.