Obama cabinet update: Napolitano out, two nominees still in limbo

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will leave President Barack Obama’s cabinet to become president of the University of California system, the administration announced Friday. Nanette Asimov wrote a good account of the challenges she’ll face in her new position. Napolitano was rumored to have wanted Attorney General Eric Holder’s job during Obama’s second term. The White House hasn’t announced her replacement yet, but Juliet Eilperin and Aaron Blake speculated about sixteen possible candidates. Half the names on that wide-raging list were unfamiliar to me. I hope Obama doesn’t tap either former Senator Joe Lieberman or former Representative Jane Harman.

Meanwhile, two highly qualified people nominated for cabinet positions in March have yet to receive up or down votes in the full Senate. Fox News Latino reported on July 12 that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will try to get a confirmation vote on Thomas Perez for secretary of labor this week. Perez faces strong opposition among Senate Republicans. The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda is lobbying hard for his confirmation; that group’s leader and members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus have criticized the president “for not appointing more Hispanics to his administration.”

I haven’t seen any details about a confirmation vote for Gina McCarthy, Obama’s nominee as chief administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency. I’ve been pessimistic about her chances, but Darren Goode reported for Politico earlier this month that McCarthy “seems likely” to win confirmation, thanks to a few Republicans who may not like the president’s environmental agenda, but “have traditionally opposed filibustering presidential nominees.” His word in God’s ear, as the Yiddish proverb goes. Goode’s piece also noted that McCarthy has faced “a record delay for a nominee to head EPA” and that Bob Perciasepe has now served as acting EPA administrator for an unprecedented amount of time in the EPA’s 40-year history. The Senate has never rejected a president’s choice for that cabinet position.

Any comments on the Obama administration are welcome in this thread.

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Tom Vilsack to stay at USDA

Multiple news sources are reporting today that as expected, Tom Vilsack will stay in President Barack Obama’s cabinet as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.

The USDA has a budget of about $150 billion and is the third-biggest cabinet agency in spending after Defense and Health and Human Services. Food stamps for needy families account for about half of the department’s spending, with the remainder taken up by other nutrition programs and subsidies for farmers such as insurance for crops including corn, wheat and cotton.

Working on a new long-term farm bill will be a major task for Congress this year. The “fiscal cliff” deal extended some but not all important farm programs temporarily.

Vilsack may tangle with Representative Steve King, who just became chairman of the House Agriculture subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, and Nutrition.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. In other Obama cabinet news, Janet Napolitano will keep her job as head of the Department of Homeland Security.

UPDATE: Interesting trivia courtesy of Alan Bjerga: “Should he serve until 2017, the former Iowa governor would be the first person to head the Department of Agriculture for two terms since Orville Freeman led the agency under presidents John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson in the 1960s.”

SECOND UPDATE: Added a statement from Vilsack after the jump.

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Iowa reaction to Obama's new policy on deportations

President Barack Obama announced today that his administration will no longer deport some illegal immigrants who were brought to this country as children. Details on the policy are after the jump. Senator Tom Harkin welcomed the change, but Senator Chuck Grassley and Representative Steve King denounced what they called an “amnesty” policy. At this writing, other Iowa elected officials have not commented publicly on the issue.

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New Supreme Court nominee speculation thread

MSNBC’s First Read reported today:

Per NBC’s Pete Williams and Savannah Guthrie, administration officials say at least eight names are on President Obama’s list of potential Supreme Court nominees. Six are women and two men. The names: U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan, Diane Wood of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, Merrick Garland of the DC Court of Appeals, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, former George Supreme Court Chief Judge Leah Ward Sears, Sidney Thomas of the 9th Circuit, and Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow. Of these names, people outside the government but familiar with White House thinking say the serious contenders are Kagan, Wood, Garland, Napolitano, and Granholm. Guthrie adds that Obama is likely to meet next week with key senators to discuss the vacancy. Many of the new additions are about interest group appeasement. And note the growing concern in the liberal/progressive blogosphere about Kagan.

One person who doesn’t sound concerned about Kagan is Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina:

“I like her,” he said, quickly adding, “and that might hurt her chances.”

Graham, whose support for Justice Sonia Sotomayor last summer was a turning point in her confirmation process, said he liked Kagan’s answers about national security and the president’s broad authority to detain enemy combatants when she was going through her own Senate confirmation.

Both of President Bill Clinton’s Supreme Court nominees had received a private stamp of approval from key Republican Senator Orrin Hatch. My hunch is that Graham’s kind words for Kagan help her chances with President Obama. He loves to position himself as a moderate between the left and the right.

What do you think?

UPDATE: Chris Bowers made the case for Sears here.

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To a hammer, everything looks like a nail

And to Representative Steve King, everything looks like a reason to deport undocumented immigrants.

ABC News reports today that the U.S. will grant “temporary protective status” to Hatians who entered this country illegally, in light of the recent devastating earthquake there:

“This is a disaster of historic proportions and this designation will allow eligible Haitian nationals in the United States to continue living and working in our country for the next 18 months,” Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced late today on a conference call. “Providing a temporary refuge for Haitian nationals who are currently in the United States and whose personal safety would be endangered by returning to Haiti is part of this Administration’s continuing efforts to support Haiti’s recovery.”

Napolitano estimated that there are 100,000 to 200,000 Haitian nationals currently in the country illegally.

“TPS gives them sort of an intermediate immigration status,” said the secretary. “It allows them — only for a period of 18 months, while Haiti gets back on its feet — to remain in the United States and authorizes them to work during that period, among other things.” […]

By law, the secretary of Homeland Security can offer temporary protected status to illegal immigrants of a particular nationality if calamities such as natural disasters or war make it too burdensome for their home countries to receive them.  

Many politicians in both parties have expressed support for granting TPS to Haitians, Andrea Nill noted at the Think Progress blog. But Steve King put a wingnutty spin on the humanitarian crisis:

“This sounds to me like open borders advocates exercising the Rahm Emanuel axiom: ‘Never let a crisis go to waste,’” Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said in an e-mail message to ABCNews. “Illegal immigrants from Haiti have no reason to fear deportation, but if they are deported, Haiti is in great need of relief workers, and many of them could be a big help to their fellow Haitians.”

How very compassionate of him.

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Year in review: national politics in 2009 (part 1)

It took me a week longer than I anticipated, but I finally finished compiling links to Bleeding Heartland’s coverage from last year. This post and part 2, coming later today, include stories on national politics, mostly relating to Congress and Barack Obama’s administration. Diaries reviewing Iowa politics in 2009 will come soon.

One thing struck me while compiling this post: on all of the House bills I covered here during 2009, Democrats Leonard Boswell, Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack voted the same way. That was a big change from 2007 and 2008, when Blue Dog Boswell voted with Republicans and against the majority of the Democratic caucus on many key bills.

No federal policy issue inspired more posts last year than health care reform. Rereading my earlier, guardedly hopeful pieces was depressing in light of the mess the health care reform bill has become. I was never optimistic about getting a strong public health insurance option through Congress, but I thought we had a chance to pass a very good bill. If I had anticipated the magnitude of the Democratic sellout on so many aspects of reform in addition to the public option, I wouldn’t have spent so many hours writing about this issue. I can’t say I wasn’t warned (and warned), though.

Links to stories from January through June 2009 are after the jump. Any thoughts about last year’s political events are welcome in this thread.

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