The vote for what is normally an uncontroversial position was unusually partisan.
Katherine Archuleta was confirmed to head the Office of Personnel Management by the Senate on Oct. 30 in a vote that was unusually partisan for a post that is typically considered noncontroversial.
The 62-35 vote was less indicative of any personal opposition to Archuleta than to lingering opposition from Republicans to an August OPM ruling that determined members of Congress and staffers can get employer-paid contributions to their health insurance premiums under the 2010 health care law. Members and some staffers are required to leave the Federal Employee Health Benefits Plans under a provision of the law.
The issue of whether members of Congress and staff would get insurance premium support paid by the government became an issue in the last days of the government shutdown, with lawmakers, notably Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), trying to get the Obama administration to require congressional employees to pay the full freight of their premiums.
"I'm not voting against this specific nominee," said Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) in a floor speech. "My concerns are with the way OPM determines who can ask questions and who can receive answers."
Notably, the leading Republicans on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which oversees OPM, voted against Archuleta, including Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the pane, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Rob Portman of Ohio and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.
Eight Republicans voted to confirm Archuleta. No Democrats opposed her.
Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, cheered the confirmation and scolded Republicans for holding up the vote. "Despite being qualified and ready to begin working, Ms. Archuleta's nomination was held up here in the Senate for months. It is critical that our agencies have leadership in place to help manage our federal government's workforce and ensure taxpayer dollars are being spent as efficiently as possible. Holding nominees for political purposes undermines these important efforts and is harmful to our nation," Carper said in an e-mailed statement.
Archuleta served as the national political director for President Barack Obama's 2012 reelection bid. Before that she was chief of staff to Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis. During the Clinton administration, she served in senior posts in the Transportation and Energy departments. She takes over for John Berry, who was confirmed as U.S. ambassador to Australia in August.
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