June 09, 2016

Virginia & Maryland Senators Urge Senate Majority Leader to Allow Confirmation Vote on OPM Director

Washington – Today the U.S. Senators from Virginia and Maryland, together representing more than 630,000 current and retired federal workers, called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to allow a confirmation vote on the President’s nominee to head the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), Acting Director Beth F. Cobert. In a letter to Leader McConnell, Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) wrote that Cobert’s nomination is necessary in order to create “stable leadership” at the agency tasked with managing personnel issues for the federal government.

Cobert has served as OPM’s Acting Director since July 10, 2015 and was nominated by President Obama on November 10, 2015 to the Senate to be Director of OPM. Cobert’s nomination was unanimously approved by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on February 10, 2016 with the support of the Chairman and Ranking Member.

“Yet, in the ensuing 17 weeks, the Senate has failed to move the nomination forward,” the Senators wrote, “Despite bipartisan support and appreciation for her qualifications among Republicans and Democrats in both chambers of Congress.”

This week marks the one-year anniversary of one of the worst cyberattacks ever committed against the U.S. government, during which hackers breached OPM’s databases and stole the personal information and Social Security numbers of more than 20 million people. In the wake of that attack, OPM has been faced with the critical mission of improving cybersecurity, while also working to confront longstanding challenges to its core functions, such as delays in processing both retirement applications and background check investigations.

“Given the scope and magnitude of these challenges, it is unfortunate that one member of the Senate has continued to hold Ms. Cobert’s nomination for ideological reasons completely unrelated to her qualifications and performance,” the Senators told Leader McConnell. “While we understand our colleague has concerns relating to OPM rulemaking that occurred well prior to Ms. Cobert’s tenure at OPM, we continue to urge him to elevate those concerns in a productive and appropriate manner rather than hamstringing the agency at a moment when strong leadership is sorely needed.”

According to press reports, one Republican Senator has placed a “hold” on the nomination, which is an informal, nonbinding parliamentary procedure with the goal of preventing the nomination from coming to the Senate floor.

Noted Sens. Warner, Mikulski, Cardin and Kaine, “The sooner the Senate is able to provide its advice and consent in confirming Ms. Cobert’s nomination, the sooner we can put this gamesmanship behind us and focus on the important work that OPM must undertake to implement critical cybersecurity and personnel reforms.”

The full text of the letter appears below. A PDF of the signed letter is available here

The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Majority Leader
United States Senate
United States Capitol, S-230
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Majority Leader McConnell:

We write today in regards to the nomination of Beth F. Cobert to be Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). As you know, Ms. Cobert has served as OPM’s Acting Director since July 10, 2015. On November 10, 2015, President Obama nominated her to the Senate to be Director of OPM. On February 10, 2016, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved Ms. Cobert’s nomination with the support of the Ranking Member and the Chairman, who noted at that time that “we are all strongly in support of this nomination.” Yet, in the ensuing seventeen weeks, the Senate has failed to move the nomination forward, despite bipartisan support and appreciation for her qualifications among Republicans and Democrats in both chambers of Congress.

Ms. Cobert stepped into the Acting Director role in the aftermath of one of the worst cyberattacks ever committed against the U.S. government. Under her leadership, the agency continues to address the serious consequences of the security breaches, including protection for the millions of individuals whose sensitive information was compromised, and efforts to improve cybersecurity at OPM so that a breach of this magnitude never occurs again. As Director of OPM, Ms. Cobert will also be responsible for a multitude of issues affecting government performance and the federal workforce. Stable leadership is required so that the agency can tackle existing challenges such as reducing the backlog in retirement applications and improving the processing of background check investigations.

Given the scope and magnitude of these challenges, it is unfortunate that one member of the Senate has continued to hold Ms. Cobert’s nomination for ideological reasons completely unrelated to her qualifications and performance. While we understand our colleague has concerns relating to OPM rulemaking that occurred well prior to Ms. Cobert’s tenure at OPM, we continue to urge him to elevate those concerns in a productive and appropriate manner rather than hamstringing the agency at a moment when strong leadership is sorely needed.

Considering that Ms. Cobert’s capabilities and qualifications continue to be beyond reproach, we encourage you to work to assuage concerns within your caucus and swiftly bring her nomination to the floor of the Senate for a vote. The sooner the Senate is able to provide its advice and consent in confirming Ms. Cobert’s nomination, the sooner we can put this gamesmanship behind us and focus on the important work that OPM must undertake to implement critical cybersecurity and personnel reforms. We strongly urge you to bring Ms. Cobert’s nomination to the floor of the Senate as swiftly as possible to help support these efforts. 

Sincerely,

Mark R. Warner
United States Senator 

Barbara Mikulski
United States Senator 

Benjamin L. Cardin
United States Senator 

Tim Kaine
United States Senator

cc: The Honorable Harry Reid, Democratic Leader, United States Senate

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