Starting back in the spring — the Partnership gathered aides from the Clinton, Trump, Bernie Sanders, John Kasich and Ted Cruz campaigns for two days of meetings at the Kykuit estate in April — the group has been in regular, sometimes daily contact with the leaders who will decide how the next administration comes together.
Take Tuesday morning, for example, when the Partnership hosted senior Senate leadership and committee aides at a meet-and-greet with Rich Bagger, the leader of Trump’s day-to-day transition work, and the executive directors of Clinton’s transition, Ann O’Leary and Ed Meier. People in the room described the gathering as friendly and totally divorced from the firestorm happening on the campaign trail.
The event’s aim was to start planning for the spate of political confirmations that will take place next year (all 1,212 of them, in an ideal world). Staffers from the Partnership have met with one or both sides of the Senate Finance, Judiciary, Armed Services, Foreign Relations, Commerce and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committees, according to Senate aides — all in hope of avoiding the bottle-necking of confirmations that can hold up a new government.
Well, they can hope.
These are the so-called PAS (presidential appointments with Senate confirmation) positions: everyone from Cabinet members to the State Department’s Chief of Protocol, from the Solicitor General to the head of the Tennessee Valley Authority. Meetings about the process have taken place on Capitol Hill and at the Partnership’s office at 1100 New York Avenue, a kind of demi-headquarters for Washington transition planning second only to 1717 Pennsylvania Avenue, where the transition teams have office space.
The Partnership serves as a kind of school for transitions: defining best practices, passing along guidance and connecting the two teams with their predecessors. (Those involved include Ted Kaufman, longtime associate of Joe Biden and advisor to the 2008 Obama transition; Mike Leavitt, transition leader for Mitt Romney; and Clay Johnson, leader of the Bush-Cheney transition.) But the group is also eager, like the transitions themselves, to keep its day-to-day work a secret, fearing the process could be politicized.
Politicized in this election cycle? Can’t imagine it.