White House Will Soon Receive List of GAO Leader Finalists

Posted March 22, 2010 at 11:08am

House and Senate leaders are close to sending a list of recommended candidates for the top spot at the Government Accountability Office to the White House, but Republicans aren’t pleased with the final list.

“There was a clear path for a bipartisan and bicameral process that Congressional Republicans wanted to pursue. It is disappointing that the Democrats in this process are pushing an ideologically driven path forward rather than a nonpartisan approach,” said Kurt Bardella, Republican spokesman for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “At the end of the day, the politicization of the GAO will not withstand Senate confirmation.”

Former Comptroller General David Walker left the helm of Congress’ watchdog agency about two years ago, but the search for his replacement didn’t begin in earnest until April 2009. The final list comprises four names, according to both Democratic and Republican sources: former Assistant Comptroller General Ira Goldstein; acting Comptroller General Gene Dodaro; Rep. Todd Platts (R-Pa.); and Harvard professor Linda Bilmes.

The list will be sent to the White House “soon,” according to a Democratic leadership aide. President Barack Obama will then either nominate a candidate from the list or an outside candidate of his own choosing. The nominee is then subject to Senate confirmation.

The recommended candidates are the result of a search conducted by a bipartisan, bicameral Congressional selection committee. That commission includes House and Senate leaders and the chairmen and ranking members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.

In December, the committee reached a deadlock over whether to put longtime Democratic staffer Phil Barnett on the list. Republicans felt Barnett was a partisan choice because of his position as staff director to former Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.).

Barnett is not on the final list, according to several sources. But Republicans are now objecting to the inclusion of Bilmes, a professor of public financing and budgeting at Harvard.

One source familiar with the interviewing process said Republicans believe Bilmes is unabashedly liberal, as evidenced by her contributions to Democratic causes and articles against Bush actions and policies. But a Democratic leadership aide pointed to letters of recommendation from Bush administration appointees Stephen Goldsmith and Meghan O’Sullivan. Retired Supreme Court Judge Sandra Day O’Connor also sent a letter recommending Bilmes.