The Washington Post

In the Loop: Interior pick could watch, but not deliver, a State of the Union address

The nomination announcement Wednesday afternoon of Sally Jewell, chief executive of outdoor company REI, to be secretary of the interior would put her eighth in the line of presidential succession should anything happen to President Obama, Vice President Biden, House and Senate leaders and the top four Cabinet officials at State, Treasury, Defense and Justice.

Except for one problem: She was born in England — came here when she was 3 — and thus doesn’t qualify. She would hardly be the first Cabinet member in this situation.

Others affected by this in recent years include Bush II Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, born in Taiwan, and Clinton Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, born in Prague. Ditto Nixon’s German-born secretary of state, Henry Kissinger.

What this means is that, if confirmed, Jewell will be forced to attend every State of the Union address, because she’ll never be the “designated successor.”

On another note, if she gets the job, she’ll be overseeing some places with a history of sweatshops that could compete with REI. REI says that it manufactures gear and apparel around the world, including China, Taiwan and El Salvador, but that it prides itself as being quite scrupulous in monitoring working conditions at its suppliers.

But as head of the Interior Department, Jewell would have jurisdiction over a few U.S. territories — especially the Northern Marianas — that were criticized for years as havens for immigrant smuggling, prostitution and sweatshops. (Because they’re U.S. territories, the clothing made there can be labeled “Made in U.S.A.” and come in duty-free.)

An Interior official assured us, however, that congressionally mandated minimum-wage increases and “new global trade rules embraced by the U.S.” have taken care of the problem.

So, no sweat.

Straying pols, beware

Philandering politicos around town, start quaking in your wingtips. And maybe call your lawyer.

Fair warning:L.A.-based Gloria Allred , attorney to many a woman involved in a high-profile controversy, was sworn in this week as a member of the D.C. bar. Which means . . . well, not much, for the moment.

Allred tells us that she’s not working on any particular case that would bring her to our fair city. But she frequently does business here, she says, and rather than operate on a “pro hac vice” basis (meaning each time she comes before a D.C. judge, she gets a one-time waiver), she decided to go all in.

She didn’t have to take the D.C. bar exam but instead used a waiver process designed for lawyers already practicing in other states.

Allred cheered the fact that there were three women on the bench of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, where she was sworn in during a Monday ceremony, along with plenty of fellow female lawyers. “That’s something you wouldn’t have seen when I was sworn in to the California bar 38 years ago,” she said.

Allred’s storied career has included going up against powerful men on behalf of the women who say they’ve been wronged. Clients have included Sharon Bialek , who accused former GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain of sexual harassment, and Natalie Khawam , the sister of the woman who blew the whistle on CIA Director David Petraeus’s affair.

Should ne’er-do-well men around town worry now that Allred is poised to take on a local case at a moment’s notice? The typically bombastic lawyer’s unusually coy reply: “I’ll leave that to them to decide.”

Friendly fire

Seems no one is playing their position these days. On Wednesday, Sen. Ron Wyden hinted that he might, maybe, possibly filibuster the nomination of White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan to be CIA director for Wyden’s pal President Obama.

Apparently the Oregon Democrat is mighty upset about a new white paper from the Justice Department and wants more information about the legal justification for drone strikes against U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism. He’s promised to “pull out all the stops” to get what he’s looking for, Roll Call reports.

And for days there’s been will-they-or-won’t-they speculation that Republicans could potentially, perhaps filibuster the nomination of one of their own, former senator Chuck Hagel (Neb.) to be secretary of defense.

Which puts us in the topsy-turvy position of having a Democrat threaten a Democratic president’s nominee with filibuster, while Republicans warn they could do the same to a fellow Republican.

Never mind that it’s all posturing — filibusters of Cabinet nominees on either side are unlikely, or at least they’re unprecedented.

Which is good to remember before you pop something to relieve the vertigo.

With Emily Heil

The blog:
. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

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

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