WASHINGTON — Now that Congress is back in town, White House officials are hopeful lawmakers will continue the same blitz of confirmations that they started just before summer recess.
On Friday, the administration forwarded 42 nominations to the Senate, the longest list of would-be political appointees so far this year. The move gives the upper chamber a new slate of names for consideration after they finalized 77 nominees over three days at the start of August, more than doubling the number of confirmations approved so far in 2017.
Among the new nominees are Thomas Modly to be under secretary of the Navy, Dean Winslow to be an assistant defense secretary for health affairs, Robert Behler to be the Pentagon’s director of operational test and evaluation, and Randy Reeves to be under secretary of memorial affairs at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
President Donald Trump has been criticized by lawmakers for the slow pace of filling key government posts, even as the White House has attacked Senate Democrats for using parliamentary procedures to slow the confirmation process.
Last month, in response to criticism during a morning cable news show, Trump tweeted that he is “not looking to fill all of those positions. Don’t need many of them - reduce size of government.”
But lawmakers from both parties and outside advocates have said leaving many of the federal leadership roles vacant risks confusion and mismanagement at government agencies, and undermines Trump’s promises of reforming executive branch operations.
Modly is currently managing director at PricewaterhouseCoopers’ public services sector. He is a former deputy under secretary of defense and a Navy veteran with degrees from the U.S. Naval Academy, Georgetown University and Harvard Business School.
If confirmed, he’ll work alongside Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, whose nomination was one of those finalized in early August.
Behler is a retired Air Force major general who lead the service’s Control & Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Center. He recently worked as deputy director for Carnegie Mellon University’s Software Engineering Institute.
Winslow was vice chair of medicine at Stanford University, and has spent much of the last two decades working in the pharma and biotech industry. He is a former Air Force colonel who deployed twice to Afghanistan, and four times to Iraq as a flight surgeon.
Reeves, who would oversee VA cemeteries in his new role, serves president of the National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs. He is a retired surface warfare officer who served as an enlisted airman before joining the Navy.
Trump also formally nominated James Bridenstine to be administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Bridenstine, a former U.S. representative from Oklahoma, had been rumored as the likely pick for the job for months.
No timetable has been set for confirmation hearings. Democrats dropped their objections to Trump’s nominations last month after plans to overhaul health care regulations were stalled, but it’s unclear if they will resume those stalling tactics over other Trump proposals.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.