• DESPITE SENATE'S CONFIRMATION SPREE, MANY AGENCIES MAINTAIN KEY LEADERSHIP VACANCIES The Senate closed out a historically gridlocked 113th Congress with a rare display of productivity: the upper chamber confirmed dozens of President Obama's appointees in the final weeks of the legislative session. The confirm-a-thon filled the ranks of mid-to-high-level positions at agencies across government. But key leadership roles remain unfilled and many nominees will now have to decide if they once again want to grind through the legislative gears of the confirmation process. Click here for the full article from Government Executive (12/23/14).

  • DEMOCRATS EMPLOY STRATEGY TO GET THE MOST BANG FOR OBAMA NOMINATIONS President Obama, Senate Majorit Leader Harry M. Reid and other Democrats have made a concerted effort over the past two years to seat as many federal judges as possible, and they could declare victory, having confirmed the most judges in a single Congress since 1980. But this strategy - based on the political calculus that lifetime judicial appointments will have greater, longer impact than executive-branch nominees - means some federal agencies will still face serious gaps during Obama's remaining time in office. Click here for the full article from the Washington Post (12/21/14).

  • THE AMBASSADORIAL CONFIRMATION SCORECARD The Senate’s last-minute flurry of ambassadorial confirmations was no doubt better than gridlock for the American Foreign Service Association. That union has long complained of extended vacancies in key overseas posts due to Senate internal politics, and earlier this year took a rare position criticizing the Obama administration for nominating too many campaign donors with questionable expertise in the host nation. In December, the Senate approved 14 ambassadors—among them envoys to Afghanistan and India—along with three key State Department leaders, including the new Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Click herefor the full article from Government Executive (12/18/14).

  • WITH THE WAY EASED, TWO MORE OBAMA NOMINEES WIN APPROVAL FROM SENATE The Senate on Tuesday finished its final session of the year by moving forward on more disputed nominations over Republican objections, confirming Sarah Saldaña, a federal prosecutor, as director of the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and Antony Blinken, a former national security adviser to President Obama, to be deputy secretary of state. Neither received the 60 votes that would have been necessary under the old Senate rules, further demonstrating how Democrats have helped Mr. Obama reshape the federal bench and fill the executive branch with people of his choosing since they abolished the filibuster for all but Supreme Court nominations. Click here for the full article from the New York Times (12/16/14).

  • HARRY REID MUSCLES NOMINEES THROUGH SENATE IN FINAL DAYS AS MAJORITY LEADER Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is using his last days at the helm of Congress' upper chamber to push through some of President Barack Obama’s most contested nominees. The list includes several nominees that will have no chance of getting a vote once Republicans take control of the Senate in January, such as surgeon general nominee Dr. Vivek Murthy, deputy Secretary of State nominee Tony Blinken and Sarah Saldana, Obama's pick to head Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Several judicial and executive branch nominees are also on the list. Click here for the full article from the Huffington Post (12/13/14).

  • ASHTON CARTER MAY REPLACE CHUCK HAGEL AT DEFENSE DEPARTMENT, OFFICIAL SAYS Ashton B. Carter, a low-key weapons specialist and longtime Pentagon official, has emerged as the odds-on favorite to replace Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who was ousted last week, a senior administration official said on Tuesday. President Obama, the official said, is leaning toward nominating Mr. Carter, barring last-minute complications, though he has not made a final decision. With two other prominent candidates for the post withdrawing their names, Mr. Carter is essentially the last man standing. Click here for the full article from the New York Times (12/2/14).