Senate votes to confirm new OPM director

The Senate voted 62-35 to confirm the nomination of Katherine Archuleta to be Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Jeff Flake (Ariz.), Deb Fischer (Neb.), John McCain (Ariz.), Lisa Murkowksi (Alaska) and Mike Johanns (Neb.) were among GOP senators who voted with Democrats to confirm Archuleta, who will now oversee all federal workers.

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Archuleta was “eminently qualified,” yet she was the first OPM director to be filibustered since the position was created 35-years ago.

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) said he opposed her nomination because he didn’t like a recent OPM decision that allows congressional staffers going onto the ObamaCare exchanges to get their current employer contributions to help pay for their healthcare. Vitter has dubbed the decision the “Washington exemption,” saying it treats some federal employees better than average Americans, even though most major offer employer subsidized healthcare.

Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) said he put a block on Archuleta’s nomination because he hadn’t gotten answers from OPM on how it came to its decision on healthcare exchanges.

“Senators have the right to ask questions and they should receive answers,” Heller said ahead of the vote. “This is why I will vote against the nominee. … I have a problem with this agency.”

Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) said Archuleta had an “impressive” resume and would be a “steady hand at the helm of OPM.”

The Senate has been working all week on executive branch and judicial nominees. The Senate has already cleared the nominations of Tom Wheeler to head the Federal Communications Commission, Richard Griffin to be General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board and Alan Estevez to be a Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense.

Reid said GOP obstruction has created a “backlog” of Obama nominees and vowed that the Senate would continue to work through some “critical” executive branch nominees this week. Votes on three more nominees are expected.