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Senate Takes Its Time With GPO Nominee

Nearly two weeks after President Bush revealed his choice for the next public printer, Government Printing Office Chief of Staff Bob Tapella is still waiting for Congress to schedule confirmation proceedings on his promotion.

But in the meantime, there remain a number of issues facing the GPO, from how its digital and technological transformation will continue to whether the agency will move into a new building — a primary goal of former Public Printer Bruce James.

“We have not yet gotten the official nomination paperwork,” said Howard Gantman, staff director of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, which has jurisdiction over the proceedings. “A date for the hearing has not been set.”

The GPO has been without a permanent head since James stepped down in January. Acting Public Printer William Turri has been leading the agency since that time — with Tapella as a close partner.

The agency is in the midst of a number of technology initiatives, from making more government documents available online to implementing its Future Digital System, which would allow users to preserve, authenticate, manage and deliver federal documents digitally.

But, Gantman said, it is important that the agency not lose focus of its core mission: to keep America informed (the agency’s motto) by publishing and making available government documents.

“The Congress is dependent upon the ability of the GPO to provide printed and electronic versions of our legislative documents and the Congressional Record in a timely matter,” he said. “With the increasing workload of Congress, the public printer needs to continue to assure the Congress that his agency will have the available resources to meet our legislative demands so that we can carry out our duties.”

Rep. Robert Brady (D-Pa.), who chairs the Joint Committee on Printing, said it is important the confirmation proceedings are handled properly.

“Turri … is doing a competent job, and I hope the Senators will not feel rushed,” Brady said. “GPO is the U.S. government’s premier printing organization, among the largest in the world. I urge the Senate to give the nomination the careful scrutiny it deserves.”

Joint Printing ranking member Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.) said he is “extremely pleased” with Tapella’s nomination.

“As chief of staff, Mr. Tapella was integral in leading its turnaround to become the more productive, responsive and efficient agency that it is today,” Ehlers said. “With his unique background, which includes a formal printing education, I am certain that he will continue to successfully lead and move the agency forward.”

Tapella has not been available for comment since the nomination announcement was made May 24. A spokeswoman reaffirmed Tuesday that the agency is waiting to hear from the Rules Committee before making any public comment on the confirmation proceedings.

Tapella, who first arrived at the GPO in 2002 as the agency’s deputy chief of staff, isn’t a newcomer to Congressional hearings, however. Most recently, he accompanied Turri to a hearing of the House Appropriations subcommittee on the legislative branch.

At the March hearing, Tapella told Members that it remained a priority for the agency to move from its massive complex on North Capitol Street to a smaller facility. He explained that the GPO hopes to sell or lease the current facility to pay for the costs of a new building — and would need Congress to pass specific legislation so the money would not be handed to the Treasury.

“It’s a significant priority,” Tapella said, adding that it is one of the first things the GPO will bring to the Joint Committee on Printing.

Tapella served in the private sector as a strategic communications consultant before heading to the GPO, but he’s also a Capitol Hill veteran.

From 1996 to 2000, Tapella supervised the Office of Member Services for the House Oversight Committee (now known as the House Administration Committee), where he undertook a range of duties, from helping Members interpret and apply rules governing their Congressional offices to developing a strategic plan for the Clerk on information technology infrastructures.

From 1986 to 1993, Tapella served as district representative for former Rep. Bill Thomas (R-Calif.). And if Tapella gets confirmed, he’ll likely meet regularly with a former colleague from those days.

Freshman Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) — who was elected to fill Thomas’ old seat — now sits on the Joint Committee on Printing. And McCarthy had nothing but compliments for Tapella, saying he would make “an excellent public printer.”

“I personally saw the dedication and effort that Bob puts into his work to make the federal government more accountable and I have the utmost confidence that he will move the Government Printing Office forward,” McCarthy said.

Turri, who will remain as acting public printer until Tapella is confirmed, echoed that praise shortly after the nomination was announced.

“Bob and I have worked side by side for four years and I look forward to continuing our work together as GPO moves forward in its digital and technological transformation,” Turri said. “We all stand ready to assist Bob.”