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Obama Picks Up Pace of Filling Watchdog Vacancies

GOP leaders tight-lipped on how many might get confirmation votes

President Obama delivers his State of the Union address in January. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)
President Obama delivers his State of the Union address in January. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

President Barack Obama is moving to fill vacant positions for federal agency watchdogs even though they would only spend a short time overseeing his administration.  

Obama in recent weeks nominated inspectors general for the Energy and Commerce departments, as well as the National Reconnaissance Office. There are a total of 11 vacancies , according to the Project on Government Oversight, which contends that IG audits and investigations identify waste, fraud and misconduct.  

The nominations reflect Obama’s push to remain aggressive on executive branch appointments until his last day in office. But GOP leaders are being tight-lipped about whether they will give any of the three picks a confirmation vote.  

Obama on April 18 nominated Susan Beard to be the Energy Department’s in-house watchdog, and Susan Gibson for the same post at NRO. The latter position is a new one.  

Three days later, he announced his intention to nominate Peggy Gustafson for the inspector general post at the Commerce Department. On Monday, he did just that.  

Beard has been the assistant general counsel for general law at the Department of Energy since 2004. Before that, she held several other Energy posts.  

[Related: Praise, Criticism for GOP as Obama Wraps 2015 ]  

Gibson has been the principal deputy general counsel at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence since 2012. She retired as a colonel from the Army’s Judge Advocate General Corps in 2007.  

Gustafson has been the inspector general at the Small Business Administration since September 2009, and was general counsel to Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., before that.  

Obama and his top aides routinely tick off a list of 2016 to-do items, many of which, like nominations, require approval from a GOP-controlled Congress that has long been more interested in thwarting his every move.  

“Congress and I have a long runway to get important things done on behalf of the American people,” said Obama during his 2015-ending press conference on Dec. 18. “There’s still a lot of work to do.  

An aide to Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., declined to comment on whether the Senate majority leader intends to schedule floor votes for Beard, Gibson and Gustafson, should each pass muster with respective Senate oversight committees.  

[Related: Fight Looms Over Size of White House National Security Staff ]  

Danielle Brian, the executive director of the Project On Government Oversight, said Obama was right to continue sending inspector general nominees to Capitol Hill.  

“I dispute any notion that the president shouldn’t fill an IG vacancy in the final months,” Brian said. “The vacancies should be filled with good candidates and there is no good argument to leave them vacant through the rest of the administration.”  

Contact Bennett at Follow him on Twitter @BennettJohnT.

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