Breach, Threat Management, Data Security

Senate vote on OPM nominee blocked over ACA exemption

A Louisiana Senator has blocked Beth Cobert's nomination as director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). The Senate vote on her nomination is being blocked for reasons unrelated to the OPM breach or her performance on cybersecurity issues since she was named interim director following former OPM director Katherine Archuleta's resignation in July.

Instead, Sen. David Vitter's (R-La.) said he is blocking the vote because he demanded a response to a letter he sent Cobert on Feb. 2 about an exception in the Affordable Care Act in which U.S. Congress is considered a small business even though the IRS considers Congress a large employer. As a result of the exemption, congressional staffers may obtain subsidized insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

Cobert was nominated by President Obama in November to serve as the agency's permanent director. Her nomination was approved by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee two weeks ago, although her nomination has hit several roadblocks over the past several weeks.

The latest delay comes on the heels of a decision that Cobert may not serve as interim OPM director while she is under consideration as the president's nominee for permanent director of the agency. OPM Inspector General Patrick McFarland informed Cobert in a memo released publicly last week that under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act any actions she has taken since being nominated by Obama for the permanent directorship “are void and may not be not be subsequently ratified.”

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee ranking member Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said the move to block the Senate vote is politically motivated.  “As we all know, Republicans are threatening to block anyone the president nominates to the Supreme Court — for political reasons,” he said, at a committee hearing Thursday. “In the same way, they are stalling Ms. Cobert's nomination despite the fact that she has been widely praised for turning things around at the agency.”

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