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Obama Administration Updates: Confirmations and Annoucements

By April 6, 2010No Comments


On March 27, President Barack Obama announced he would bypass a vacationing Senate and name 15 people to key administration jobs — including Alan Bersin as head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). As Commissioner of CBP, Bersin will oversee 52,000 workers that make up the U.S. Border Patrol, air and marine units and customs officers. Prior to his appointment, Bersin served as the DHS Assistant Secretary for International Affairs and Special Representative for Border Affairs, as which he formulates and coordinates security strategies regarding the U.S.-Mexico border. Under the Clinton Administration, Bersin spearheaded plans for “Operation Gatekeeper,” a government initiative that sought to end undocumented immigration into California. The plan consequently forced immigrants to cross the border through the Arizona mountains and desert instead, which led to the death of hundreds.

Over the Passover-Easter break, President Obama appointed attorneys Craig Becker and Mark Pearce to fill two vacant seats on the National Labor Relations Board. These recess appointees can hold their seats without confirmation until the end of this congressional session. The Senate Labor Committee approved Pearce unanimously and Becker, a Chicago attorney, law professor and associate counsel for the AFL-CIO and SEIU, by a party-line vote earlier in 2010. Republicans had successfully filibustered Becker’s nomination because of concerns he would bring a radical pro-union agenda to the job, and they called on Obama not to appoint Becker over the recess. The 5-member board, which referees labor-management disputes, has had a majority of its seats vacant for more than two years, slowing its work and raising questions about the legality of its rulings. Appointment of Becker and Pearce guarantees a quorum for the board so it can again make key rulings without legal challenge. The board has had only two members – Democrat Wilma Liebman, the chair, and Republican Peter Schaumber – since the last day of 2007. Their subsequent 2-0 rulings have been challenged in court, in a case the U.S. Supreme Court heard on March 23.

To be announced:
Donald M. Berwick, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, is expected to be named head of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. This agency will oversee parts of the new health care law, and oversee major programs including Medicare and Medicaid. The announcement is expected to come during the congressional two-week April recess. Berwick is a clinical professor of pediatrics and health care policy at the Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health and is an advocate for lower costs and improved care.