The Washington Post

An Obama thank-you to Latinos?


Latino groups, feeling good these days about their contribution to President Obama’s reelection — the Hispanic vote was critical in Nevada, Colorado and Florida and significant in several other battleground states — are making some lists, checking them twice.

They have high expectations of landing at least two — they want three — Cabinet or Cabinet-level slots. And there’s a possibility that both Latinos now in the Cabinet will be moving on in a bit.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. View Archive

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has not officially made a decision — first we heard he was leaving, then he was staying — but now he says he’ll be taking the holidays to think about what he wants to do, noting that he wants to spend more time with his family. (Hmm. Loop Fans know what that usually means.)

We had Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) penciled in for this job, but he managed to get reelected. We had Heidi Heitkamp in as backup if Tester won, but she’s now an incoming senator from North Dakota.

There’s talk that John Berry , a former assistant interior secretary in the Bill Clinton administration and now director of the Office of Personnel Management, might return to the Interior Department in the top job.

And Labor Secretary Hilda Solis is said to be eyeing a run for the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors — a very powerful body out there — though she’s not inclined to leave for a year or so.

Labor unions, however, while quite happy with Solis, who’s got strong labor roots, have at least one favorite candidate in case she departs: Leo Gerard , the longtime president of the United Steelworkers. The highly regarded Gerard worked long and hard on the reelection campaign.

It might help his chances a lot if Gerard, a Canadian, were a U.S. citizen. After all, as secretary of labor he would be 10th in line to be president should something happen to the chief executive.

Latino groups have a long list of possibles, especially for Commerce or Transportation, including Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and former Miami mayor Manny Diaz .

In the private sector, business executives such as Ralph de la Vega , president and CEO of AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets, or Cesar Conde , president of the Univision Networks at Univision Communications, might be induced to join the administration.

Meanwhile, there’s some talk that longtime Obama friend and mega-bundler Penny Pritzker — not a Latina — might be interested in the job of commerce secretary. We had her penciled in for a small diplomatic post, such as the Court of St. James’s (London) or perhaps Paris, but . . .

Holder and whom?

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. might be doing his best Hamlet impersonation about whether to leave the administration — after much consternation, the latest is that he’s staying put for now. But there’s certainly upheaval in the ranks of his assistants.

Joseph Wayland , acting assistant AG for the antitrust division, left this month and was replaced by Renata Hesse in an acting role ( William Baer , a lawyer with Arnold & Porter, was nominated to replace her permanently, but he’s yet to be confirmed by Congress).

Wayland returned to his old firm, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett. He tells the Loop that his commute from New York — where he lives with his wife and three teenage boys — to Washington was getting to be too much. “I was on borrowed time,” he says.

He isn’t the only one moving on. Lanny Breuer , assistant AG for the criminal division, is also said to be heading for the exit, perhaps by year’s end. He’s been at Justice for the bulk of the first Obama administration, and so his eventual departure, too, seems like a natural turn of events.

He might otherwise have stayed, people with information said, but Breuer’s role in the “Fast and Furious” gun-tracking controversy would probably prevent him from winning Senate confirmation for a more senior job — Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) last year called for his resignation.

Another expected departure — sooner rather than later, we hear — is Ignacia Moreno , the assistant AG for environmental and natural resources.

Rent, don’t buy

Rep. David Curson ’s tenure in Washington isn’t much longer than the life span of an average housefly, but that’s not stopping him from acting as though he’s in it for the long haul — and that includes cleaning house and hiring his own staff.

Curson, the Michigan Democrat who is filling the end of the term for Thad McCotter , has less than six weeks in office. He opted not to run for a full term, and he’ll be heading back to Michigan when Republican Kerry Bentivolio is sworn in in January.

You wouldn’t know Curson was such a short-timer. He replaced all of McCotter’s staff with his own people, even down to the constituent service folks — the ones who help with missing Social Security checks and passport requests and the like — back in the district offices, according to the sharp-eyed folks at LegiStorm.

He’s brought on Washington veteran Pat McCarty , a former Senate staffer and recently the head of government relations for brokerage firm Icap, to be his blink-and-you-might-miss-him chief of staff.

Such a changing of the guard isn’t unusual, says Brad Fitch, president of the Congressional Management Foundation. Since the 1990s, any lawmaker of a different party typically replaces the entire staff, he notes. “It’s traditional in today’s day and age,” he says.

But a six-week stint sure isn’t the norm. The Curson staff — nine at the last count — will likely be sent packing in January when the new GOP boss settles in.

Better not get too comfortable . . .

With Emily Heil

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. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

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