Dems accuse lone GOP senator of ‘hamstringing’ OPM nomination

Greg Nash

A group of Democratic senators is pressing leadership to move forward with a confirmation vote on Acting Director Beth Cobert of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), despite a hold placed on her nomination to the permanent position by Sen. David Vitter (R-La.).

{mosads}“It is unfortunate that one member of the Senate has continued to hold Ms. Cobert’s nomination for ideological reasons completely unrelated to her qualifications and performance,” four Senate Democrats wrote in a Thursday letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

“Stable leadership is required” in the wake of the massive breach at the agency, discovered a year ago this week, wrote Sens. Mark Warner (Va.), Barbara Mikulski (Md.), Ben Cardin (Md.) and Tim Kaine (Va.).

Cobert has lead the OPM since the previous director, Katherine Archuleta, resigned over the devastating hack, which exposed data of more than 20 million federal employees, contractors and others.

But Vitter, who put a hold on her nomination in February, has said he will continue to block Cobert’s confirmation until he receives a response to a request for information sent that month.

The Louisiana Republican is frustrated with an agency rule that allows members of Congress and Capitol Hill employees to purchase health coverage as a small business through an Affordable Care Act exchange — the so-called Obamacare exemption.

“We have now reached the point where OPM can no longer avoid explaining how Congress was allowed to purchase health insurance as a small business — when it clearly is not,” Vitter said in a statement.

“Ms. Cobert’s nomination will not move forward in any capacity until the American people have received answers as to why Washington’s Obamacare exemption exists,” he said in February.

The four Democrats on Thursday did not call Vitter out by name, citing press reports in a release and referring to him only as “one member.”

“While we understand our colleague has concerns relating to OPM rulemaking that occurred well prior to Ms. Cobert’s tenure at OPM, we continue to urge him to elevate those concerns in a productive and appropriate manner rather than hamstringing the agency at a moment when strong leadership is sorely needed,” the lawmakers wrote.

A hold, they note in a release, is informal and nonbinding.

Cobert has received widespread support from both sides of the aisle for her handling of the agency in the wake of the breach.

The House Oversight Committee — which spearheaded the charge that ultimately led to Archuleta’s resignation — have urged the Senate to move on the nomination.

Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) called her a “qualified and competent choice to manage OPM” in a March letter urging Senate leaders to move forward on the nomination.

Warner, Mikulski, Cardin and Kaine echoed that support on Thursday, calling for an end to “this gamesmanship.”

“Considering that Ms. Cobert’s capabilities and qualifications continue to be beyond reproach, we encourage you to work to assuage concerns within your caucus and swiftly bring her nomination to the floor of the Senate for a vote,” the senators wrote.

Tags Barbara Mikulski Ben Cardin David Vitter David Vitter Jason Chaffetz Mark Warner Mitch McConnell Tim Kaine United States Office of Personnel Management
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