Key Positions in Obama Administration Still Vacant

Image: Key Positions in Obama Administration Still Vacant President Barack Obama shakes hands with Michael Froman, his nominee for U.S. Trade Representative, May 2 in the White House Rose Garden.

Friday, 03 May 2013 10:52 AM

By Courtney Coren

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Five months after President Barack Obama was re-elected, several key positions in his administration remain vacant.

A combination of Washington partisanship and a lengthy vetting process by the White House is being blamed.

Top positions at the State Department, the Internal Revenue Service, the Treasury Department, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Commerce Department still are unfilled, The New York Times reports.

The White House blames Congress. Senators asked Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew 444 questions prior to his confirmation and submitted 1,000 questions in the run-up to hearings for Gina McCarthy, Obama's choice to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.

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"Current congressional Republicans have made no secret of the extraordinary lengths they will go to obstruct the confirmation process," said Eric Schultz, a White House spokesman. "The unprecedented evasiveness, often about matters decades old or unrelated to the post, slows down the process from beginning to end."

Secretary of State John Kerry has permanent assistant secretary of state positions for the Middle East, Asia, Europe, Africa, and others still vacant. The unfilled positions were a point of contention in a hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee in which he said that he was "still waiting for the vetting to move" for jobs he recommended to the White House "way back in February."

Members of Congress put the blame on the White House, saying they still are waiting for nominations as administration lawyers and operatives comb through potential nominees for weeks and sometimes months in search of anything that might be embarrassing.

"I don't think it's ever been this bad," said Rep. Frank Wolf of Virginia in a letter to Obama on the issue. "I urge you to prompt the White House to expeditiously appoint persons to these important positions."

An unidentified former administration official explained to the Times why the nomination process can take so long.

"The basic premise was that it was better to over-vet, to get everything on the table early and not give something that could end up becoming a scandal," he said.

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