Get The List: Time To Find Out Who’s Burrowed Into The Bureaucracy

Joanne Butler Contributor
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Now that candidate announcement season is fully upon us, a question hangs in the air. Could these people actually govern the behemoth of the federal government? Governing has nothing to do with artful stage backdrops and speechifying. But it has everything to do with success; if a president can’t get his or her policies implemented properly and timely, he or she is a failure. Thus I pose this challenge to the Republican candidates and those in waiting: can you obtain a list of Obama appointees who have ‘burrowed in’ and are now career civil servants?

When I was in the Bush administration, Senator Ted Kennedy sent my department an annual letter requesting the names of all persons who had switched from appointee to career status.

It was Teddy’s gift to the incoming Democrat president: a list of people in the bureaucracy who were once George W. Bush’s appointees. Some might call this an Enemies List.

For a Republican president, it means there are people all over the federal government, some with significant power, who are not friendly (to say the least) to the president’s polices and agenda. While a few may put aside their former loyalties in order to promote good governance, many do not.

Thus, regulatory changes and presidential initiatives can be slow-walked into oblivion, mismanaged to gain bad press, etc. This is especially true if the burrowed bureaucrat suspects Republican president X is just a one-termer.

A cautionary note before Senators Cruz, Rubio, and Paul get their pens warmed up in hell (to borrow Mark Twain’s phrase): the bureaucracy only will respond to a request from the chairman of the appropriate committee. Lesser beings get the usual ‘we are considering your response’ letter (translation: we’ll get back to you in 2017, ha ha).

So how can the Republican candidates get the list?

Let’s start with the late Teddy’s committee, Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP). With the massive expansion of HHS due to Obamacare, I wouldn’t be surprised if many appointees slid into career slots. Knowing those who ‘burrowed in’ to the Departments of Education and Labor would be helpful too – my guess is they’re union advocate types.

The current committee chairman is Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN). Senator Paul is a committee member.

Might I suggest to Mr. Paul that he have a heart-to-heart with Mr. Alexander over the importance of getting this information? And if Mr. Alexander doth protest this action is unseemly and not in keeping with the bipartisan spirit of the committee, then Mr. Paul should politely but relentlessly repeat his request. If that fails, perhaps Messrs. Paul, Cruz and Rubio could put aside their differences for a moment and have a wee scrum in Mr. Alexander’s office?

As the IRS is a hot issue, I think a list of Obama burrowers in the Treasury Department would be very useful. The Senate committee of jurisdiction is Finance, chaired by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT). No candidates are members. The recent past chairman was Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who I suspect would have gleefully sent a letter to the Treasury and its agency, the IRS. Mr. Hatch, cautious creature that he is, is another matter.

Let’s see what assistance the House could offer.

As to the Treasury and IRS, Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (the V.P. candidate in 2012) has jurisdiction.  Perhaps a call from his friend Governor Scott Walker could persuade him to send a letter?  Plus, I suggest Mr. Ryan consider the Administration’s response like a political piñata:  who knows what goodies are inside?  If that’s not enough incentive, he should bear in mind how his request will make the employee unions very angry.

The House committee that’s a companion to the Senate’s HELP committee is Education and the Workforce.  It’s chaired by Congressman John Kline (R-MN).  Admittedly, I know little about Kline or his receptivity to penning a burrowing list request.  Is Mr. Kline a ‘Minnesota nice’ type, or is he willing to put the gloves on and get into the ring?  I leave it to the candidates to assess Mr. Kline’s receptiveness.

Lastly, there’s the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chaired by Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT). This might be the easiest sell of them all. To be a worthy member of the Oversight committee takes an iron-spine attitude regarding bureaucracies. A request for a list of Obama burrowers fits right into that ‘tude.

It’s unlikely Mr. Chaffetz would have reservations about the request. But if he did, no doubt the effervescently pugnacious Congressman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) (a committee member) could persuade the chairman.

To the candidates and would-be candidates: Demonstrate your commitment to governance and get those lists. You’ll need them if you win.

To the legislative branch chairmen: Do you want a Republican president to succeed? It won’t happen if there are Obama landmines burrowed in the federal bureaucracy. Get those lists.