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Rules Panel OKs Tapella To Run GPO

The Senate Rules and Administration Committee recommended Bob Tapella to be the public printer on Wednesday, clearing the way for Senate approval and the end of the Government Printing Office’s eight-month run with no official leader.

Tapella’s nomination flew through the committee, with members voting unanimously in less than a minute. Such ease was expected — several members have expressed confidence in Tapella’s institutional knowledge and his suitability for the position.

“I think he’s the right choice,” ranking member Bob Bennett (R-Utah) said after the hearing. “He’s had good experience down there and can provide good continuity.”

President Bush nominated Tapella for the position in May, after former Public Printer Bruce James stepped down in January. It took a few months for the White House to get the necessary paperwork to the Senate, and an initial hearing two weeks ago was canceled because not enough committee members could make it, said Howard Gantman, staff director of the Rules panel.

In the meantime, Tapella has worked closely with Acting Public Printer William Turri, ensuring that the agency continues to print government documents and move forward with a strategic plan focused on transforming the agency for the digital age. Although GPO officials are eager for Tapella’s confirmation, the agency has continued its work unhindered, said GPO spokeswoman Caroline Scullin.

A confirmation would mean that the agency would have an official head after eight months of working under an interim leader. While Tapella would be filling James’ shoes, it’s unclear whether he would focus on the same goals. James helped the agency move into the digital age, introducing programs to put documents online and allow users to submit content for preservation. He also concentrated on trying to move the agency out of its large facility on North Capitol Street and into a smaller building where the printing process could be done more efficiently. Congress must pass a specific bill for that to take place, and Tapella testified earlier at a House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch hearing that moving remained a priority.

Scullin said Tapella won’t talk publicly about his nomination or his plans until the Senate makes its decision, but she released a statement Wednesday saying Tapella is “deeply grateful” that his nomination passed the committee.

Rep. Robert Brady (D-Calif.), chairman of the Committee on Printing, said in a statement that he hopes a confirmation will mean a speedy resolution to negotiations over labor agreements between GPO and its unions.

“Perhaps a new public printer can quickly finalize new labor agreements with GPO’s unions,” Brady said in the statement. “These negotiations have gone on for far too long, and it’s long past time for new contracts for GPO workers.”

The negotiations have been ongoing for months, and Scullin said they have continued throughout the confirmation process. GPO officials also are hopeful that agreements are worked out, she said.

Tapella is certain to be familiar with this situation, as well as GPO’s other inner workings. He has been at the agency since 2002, after working in the private sector as a strategic communications consultant. From 1996 to 2000, he supervised the Office of Member Services for the House Oversight Committee (now known as the House Administration Committee), and once was district representative for then-Rep. Bill Thomas (R-Calif.).

Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.), ranking member of the Joint Committee on Printing, has been supportive of Tapella. In a statement Wednesday, he reiterated that sentiment.

“Mr. Tapella will make an effective public printer,” he said. “I look forward to his prompt confirmation by the full Senate.”

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