Cabaniss confirmed to lead OPM

The former head of the Federal Labor Relations Authority was approved to take over the top human resources job in government, ending almost a year of acting leadership.

The Senate voted Sept. 11 to confirm a new head of the Office of Personnel Management, ending almost a year of acting leadership at the federal government's central human resources agency.

Dale Cabaniss, who served as chairwoman of the Federal Labor Relations Authority during the George W. Bush administration, was confirmed to lead OPM by a vote of 54 to 38, largely along party lines. Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Doug Jones (D-Ala.) were the only Democrats to support the nomination. Sinema is the ranking member of the Senate subcommittee with jurisdiction over general workforce policy.

The nomination has been opposed by federal unions. In a letter on the eve of the vote, the American Federation of Government Employees urged lawmakers to vote against Cabaniss.

"It is clear that Dale Cabaniss' professional career demonstrates that she neither supports the mission of OPM nor possesses the appropriate experience to lead this important agency at such a critical point in its history," Alethea Predeoux, AFGE's legislative director, wrote in the letter.

The "critical point" referred to here is a planned merger of OPM into the General Services Administration -- essentially making HR a central service alongside acquisition and real estate.

At her confirmation hearing in May, Cabaniss testified to the central role Congress must play in authorizing and funding any merger.

"You've got to get all the information you need," she said. "The only way to get legislation to be able to effectuate this change is to work with Congress."

Margaret Weichert, the deputy director of management at the Office of Management and Budget, had been running OPM on an acting basis since the resignation of Jeff Tien Han Pon in October 2018.

Weichert's work to advance the merger has run into stern opposition from House Democrats, who have inserted policy riders into appropriations legislation and the must-pass defense authorization bill designed to thwart the merger itself and any effort to combine the two agencies along administrative lines. It remains to be seen whether those measures make it into the final passage and enactment of the bills, but it does not appear that Congress is going to offer legislation or funding that actively authorizes and supports the merger.

"I don't see any legislative fix that's going to happen to allow OPM and GSA to merge," Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) told FCW in June. "To suggest that that's a fight that will ultimately be accomplished by legislative means would be to deny the reality of the divided Congress."

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