By Bob Cusack - 11/01/10 04:40 PM EDT
Many Democrats are nervous about Election Day, but some are especially nervous.
Some administration officials have worked well with Republicans in Congress, but others have infuriated GOP lawmakers during the first two years of the Obama presidency.
The Obama administration will be held accountable “like they’ve never been held accountable,” Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who would be chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee should the GOP win the House, said recently.
Here are the top 10 administration officials (outside of the White House) who have the most on the line:
Attorney General Eric Holder.* Republicans have been highly critical of Holder on issues ranging from the Black Panther voting case to Guantanamo Bay to Miranda rights for terrorism suspects. Rep. Frank Wolf (Va.), the top Republican appropriator with jurisdiction over the Department of Justice, has expressed exasperation with Holder for refusing to respond to his
letters seeking “basic information.”
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson*. With climate change legislation on life support, Republicans will likely act to ensure the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will not seek to curb carbon emissions through a rulemaking. Jackson has aggressively led EPA by pursuing a broad agenda. But that has drawn salvos from many Republicans and even a few Democrats, including Sen. Jay Rockefeller (W.Va.).
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius*. Republican oversight of the Clinton administration on healthcare in the 1990s was intense. But if Republicans win the House, it will even be more so in the 112th Congress. Sebelius’s department, and her implementation of the new healthcare law, will be under heavy scrutiny. So will one of her deputies, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Donald Berwick. Bypassing the Senate, President Obama recess-appointed Berwick in July. The move sparked outrage from Republicans who wanted to reopen the healthcare debate and press Berwick on controversial statements he made on rationing medical care. Republicans in both chambers asked their Democratic counterparts to invite Berwick to testify before Congress. Next year, Republicans may not have to ask.
DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano.* The conservative-leaning Drudge Report has given Napolitano the nickname “Big Sis,” which she recently said amuses her. The spotlight on Napolitano is bright because she handles many hot-button issues, including border security, immigration and the use of body scanners in airports. She has also been a critic of Arizona’s immigration law, which the administration is legally challenging.
USTR Ron Kirk.* The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative hasn’t had a lot to do for two years, but that could change with a House Republican majority. Three pending trade deals that stalled under Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) could move next year and provide a rare bit of cooperation between Republicans and the White House. Kirk is expected to be more visible in the next Congress, though some GOP freshmen in 2011 won’t be anxious to move trade pacts.
Elizabeth Warren, assistant to the president.* Warren will have a leading role in setting up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a key facet of the Wall Street reform bill that most GOP lawmakers opposed. Republicans will want her to testify – a lot. Warren’s appointment was lauded by liberal activists and Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.).
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. *The right and the left have attacked Geithner, and Republicans will attempt to pick apart how the Obama administration has handled the nation’s ailing economy. Should he grab the gavel of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Issa would likely focus on may things within Treasury’s purview, including the economic stimulus; the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, that was used to bail out banks and auto companies; and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates*. Gates, who was the only Cabinet member who stayed on after the 2008 election, has indicated he wants to leave his post in 2011. His rationale is that replacing him would be difficult in an election year. But the debate over "Don't ask, don't tell" and the target date of withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan in July of next year could complicate his exit. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and ranking member John McCain (R-Ariz.) have very different views on the importance of the July deadline. Gates is well-respected on both sides of the aisle, but whatever withdrawal plan he and the president choose, it is sure to attract criticism. There has been speculation that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may replace Gates.
OMB Director Jack Lew. *House Republicans plan to vote on a series of bills that would cut the deficit. Lew, who worked well with Republicans as budget director in the Clinton administration, will need to pick his battles with the new Congress.
Obama’s so-called czars.* Congressional Republicans were reluctant to criticize Obama after the 2008 election, but they have never shied away from lambasting his so-called czars. Republicans have argued that the use of these czars, who include White House Office of Healthcare Director Nancy-Ann DeParle and Special Envoy for Middle East Peace George Mitchell, violates the Constitution because they are not confirmed by the Senate. While most Democrats have countered that former President George W. Bush had officials in similar positions, the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) publicly questioned Obama on the issue.