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The Rose Garden: Obama on a Record Pace for Nominations

President Barack Obama is setting a blistering pace for making top-level nominations. He has eclipsed the number of nominations made by former President George W. Bush at this point in his presidency, and he’s on target to secure the most confirmed appointments of any modern president in his first 100 days.

Obama started off fast on the personnel front late last year, but he soon found himself withdrawing nominees amid controversy and coming under fire for failing to staff the government during a time of crisis. But according to the nonpartisan White House Transition Project, Obama may be on track to break the record set by President Ronald Reagan of 83 successful confirmations by the end of the first 100 days — that is, by close of business on April 29.

By last week, Obama was moving at nearly double the pace Bush set in 2001, according to the Transition Project.

As of the April 14 mark of their presidencies, both Obama and Bush had announced nearly 200 appointments to posts that require Senate confirmation. But Obama had actually sent to the Senate almost twice as many — 126 to Bush’s 67. And the Senate has confirmed 60 for Obama compared to 30 in 2001. Both Obama and Bush faced a Senate run by their own party, as did Reagan in 1980.

Nevertheless, Obama has a ways to go before the government can be called “up and running.” Obama has announced less than half of the total Senate-confirmed Cabinet department positions he must fill, and only 10 percent have been confirmed. But the Transition Project’s latest tallies make clear that he is moving at a far faster pace than generally understood and is holding his own against previous modern presidents.

University of North Carolina professor Terry Sullivan, who is tracking Obama’s nominations for the Transition Project, said the Obama White House’s progress is built on the willingness of Obama’s aides to absorb long-running research into how to staff the government

“I think they’ve all along been geared up for this sort of movement,” Sullivan said, suggesting that decades of efforts to highlight the need to get a government in place more quickly are coming to fruition, he said.

Ironically, a lot of credit goes to Bush, whose team — intensely focused on the need for a smooth transition during a time of war — prepared fanatically to hand over the reins. Clay Johnson, the Office of Management and Budget deputy director of management under Bush, has been echoing the refrain around town, “one hundred confirmed appointments in one hundred days,” according to Sullivan.

Johnson served as the key White House contact as Bush officials hashed through on transition issues with both the Obama presidential campaign and that of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Johnson worked closely with both John Podesta, who chaired the Obama transition, and Chris Lu, who was its executive director and now serves as Cabinet secretary in the White House.

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