- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 22, 2010

OMB

Orszag announces July retirement

White House budget chief Peter R. Orszag said Tuesday that he will step down next month, positioning him to be the first high-profile member of President Obama’s team to depart the administration.

Mr. Orszag confirmed his planned resignation in a brief interview with the Associated Press on Tuesday. He said he views passage of last year’s economic recovery act as his most significant accomplishment.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday that “a number of very talented candidates” were being considered to replace Mr. Orszag.

Peter has served alongside and within a valuable economic team that has faced the greatest economic crisis any president has faced since the Great Depression. It is an enormous task,” Mr. Gibbs said.

As director of the Office of Management and Budget, Mr. Orszag holds a Cabinet-level rank and plays a pivotal role in shaping and defending how the administration spends the public’s money. He quickly emerged from a bureaucratic post to become a camera-friendly face of Mr. Obama's government, often taking the lead in explaining plans to confront the deficit and to spur the economy.

TERRORISM

Pakistani Taliban sought for blacklist

The four senators from New York and New Jersey are seeking to force the Obama administration to blacklist the Pakistani Taliban, a day after the failed Times Square bomber pleaded guilty and admitted getting training from the group.

The lawmakers, all Democrats, said Tuesday they would introduce a bill requiring the State Department to designate the Pakistani Taliban a “foreign terrorist organization.”

“Now that the Times Square terrorist has pleaded guilty in court, it is time to take the next step by confronting the organization that aided and abetted him,” Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said in a statement.

Mr. Schumer, along with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Sens. Robert Menendez and Frank R. Lautenberg of New Jersey, already had written to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in May asking that the Pakistani Taliban be added to the list.

On Tuesday, department spokesman P.J. Crowley said that review was nearly complete and told reporters that he did not believe the legislation was necessary. Inclusion on the list freezes a group’s assets in the U.S. and imposes travel and financial sanctions on its members.

NLRB

Senate confirms two to board posts

The Senate on Tuesday confirmed two candidates to be members of the National Labor Relations Board for full five-year terms, breaking a stalemate that has disrupted the labor board’s ability to resolve labor-management disputes.

Those winning Senate confirmation were Mark Pearce, a union lawyer who already serves on the NLRB in a temporary capacity, and Brian Hayes, the Republican labor policy director on the Senate committee that oversees labor issues.

Not on the list of more than 60 Obama nominees confirmed with Mr. Pearce and Mr. Hayes was Craig Becker, a third NLRB nominee that Republicans have united in opposing because of his close ties to organized labor groups - he has served as a top lawyer for the Service Employees International Union and the AFL-CIO.

The NLRB, an independent federal agency charged with refereeing labor-management differences, is supposed to have five members, but until April this year it had only two because Democrats balked at President George W. Bush’s choices and Republicans have blocked President Obama’s nominations.

The Supreme Court last week ruled that more than 500 NLRB decisions will have to be reopened because they were decided by only two members.

Mr. Obama in April made Mr. Pearce and Mr. Becker recess appointments, a practice used by presidents when the Senate doesn’t act on nominations. Mr. Becker can serve only through the end of the next Senate session, through the end of 2011.

FDA

IG calls inspection of foreign trials poor

Federal inspectors say the Food and Drug Administration is reviewing only a fraction of foreign drug trials, as companies increasingly move drug testing overseas to reduce costs.

A report by the inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services says the FDA inspected only about 1 percent of foreign drug testing sites in fiscal year 2008.

The agency is responsible for overseeing the safety of patients enrolled in studies by U.S. drugmakers. However, the inspector found that the FDA was often unaware of early-stage trials conducted in developing countries in South and Central America.

The report recommends that the FDA coordinate better with foreign governments to monitor drug trials abroad.

SUPREME COURT

10 solicitors general

endorse Kagan pick

Some liberal and conservative former solicitors general are endorsing Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court.

In a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, 10 lawyers named by Republican and Democratic presidents to represent the government before the Supreme Court say Ms. Kagan will serve with distinction.

The group includes noted conservatives Ted Olson and Kenneth W. Starr, the prosecutor who investigated President Clinton while Ms. Kagan served in his White House. They say Ms. Kagan will bring broad experience and a history of great accomplishment to the court.

The White House arranged a conference call Tuesday with Seth P. Waxman, a Clinton administration solicitor general, and Paul Clement, who served under President George W. Bush, to discuss their support.