Republicans Send White House Their Own List for GAO Head

Posted March 25, 2010 at 4:45pm

The search for the nation’s next Comptroller General continued to be mired in partisanship Thursday, as Republican leaders sent their own list of recommended candidates to the White House, in defiance of a Democratic list earlier this week.

A bipartisan Congressional commission began reviewing applications for the position about a year ago, but talks broke down as the commission narrowed its list of candidates to send to President Barack Obama. On Tuesday, Democrats sent their own list, infuriating Republicans who believe that one of the suggested candidates is too liberal to head the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office.

Still, Democrats and Republicans included three of the same candidates on their respective lists: Rep. Todd Platts (R-Pa.), acting Comptroller General Gene Dodaro and former Assistant Comptroller General Ira Goldstein.

In their letter to Obama, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) accuse Democrats of “abruptly” ending the panel’s work and “preventing further negotiations that could have led to a consensus list of qualified candidates with broad bipartisan, bicameral support.”

“While staff discussions on reviewing and narrowing the list of candidates were proceeding, the Democratic Commission members unexpectedly informed the Republican Commission members that they would be transmitting a list of four candidates to you,” they write in the letter, which is also signed by House Oversight and Government Reform ranking member Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs ranking member Susan Collins (R-Maine). “We were not presented with an opportunity to revise this list, nor were we consulted on its creation.”

In addition to Platts, Dodaro and Goldstein, Republicans also included Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen. Bowen is their replacement for Harvard professor Linda Bilmes, who was recommended by Democrats. Republicans think Bilmes is too partisan for the position because of past Democratic contributions and some of her articles and books, according to sources familiar with the discussion.

Obama can now nominate a candidate from either party’s list or someone of his own choosing. His nominee is subject to Senate confirmation — an easier ordeal if his choice is supported by both sides of the aisle.

In that sense, Republicans have left an opening by including in their letter three of the same candidates recommended by Democrats and encouraging Obama to choose any of them.

“Again, we regret that the Democratic members did not allow the bipartisan process to conclude its deliberations,” they write. “Nonetheless, we encourage you to select a capable, qualified, non-partisan candidate for the position of Comptroller General of the United States and believe that each of the candidates we have identified meets these requirements.”