Senate Confirms Amb. Robert Lighthizer as Trump’s U.S. Trade Representative

Posted: 4:33 pm ET
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On January 3, then President-elect Trump announced his intent to nominate former deputy USTR Robert Lighthizer as the next U.S. Trade Representative (@USTradeRep).  If confirmed, Ambassador Lighthizer would succeed Ambassador Michael Froman who was sworn in as the 17th United States Trade Representative (USTR) on June 21, 2013 as President Obama’s principal advisor, negotiator and spokesperson on international trade and investment issues (see Trump to Nominate Robert Lighthizer as the Next U.S. Trade Representative).

Today, the Senate confirmed Robert Lighthizer, of Florida, to be United States Trade Representative, with the rank of Ambassador in an 82-14 vote; four GOP senators did not cast their votes. Three Republican senators, McCain (R-AZ), Sasse (R-NE), and Gardner (R-CO) joined 11 Democrats for the no votes.

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Trump to Nominate Former Ambassador Mark Green as USAID Administrator

Posted: 2:48 am ET
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On May 4 we blogged about former GOP Representative Mark Green as the prospective USAID Administrator (see Expected USAID Pick Ex-GOP Rep Mark Green Lost in the Trump Jungle). On May 10, President Trump announced his intent to nominate  Mark Andrew Green of Wisconsin to be Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development. The WH released the following brief bio:

Ambassador Mark Green is currently serving as President of the International Republican Institute (IRI), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing citizen-responsive, citizen-centered governance around the world. In addition to his leadership of IRI, during 2011-16, he served on the Board of Directors of the Millennium Challenge Corporation. In 2007-09, he served as the U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania, and oversaw major programs in the areas of global health and economic development. Prior to his role as ambassador, Mr. Green represented Wisconsin’s 8th District in the U.S. House of Representatives and served on the House Judiciary and International Relations Committees. He helped craft key policy initiatives like the Millennium Challenge Act and President George W. Bush’s international AIDS program.

He holds a law degree from the University of Wisconsin, a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire, and an honorary Doctor of Science from Georgetown University.

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MSPB Precedential Case: The Statutory Definition of a “Widow”

Posted: 2:14 am ET
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This is a precedential case worth noting via the U.S. Merit Service Protection Board:

Petitioner: Amanda E. Becker
Respondent: Office of Personnel Management Tribunal: U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit Case Number: 2016-1365
MSPB Docket No. CH-0831-15-0280-I-1
Issuance Date: April 7, 2017

Case Report – April 14, 2017

The appellant filed an application with the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) seeking survivor benefits under the Federal Employees’ Retirement System (FERS) based on the Federal service of her late husband. OPM denied her application on the basis of its finding that she did not meet the statutory definition of a “widow” who may receive such benefits, which is defined at 5 U.S.C. § 8441(1) as the surviving wife of an employee who was married to the employee for at least 9 months immediately before his death, or who is the mother of children by that marriage. The appellant appealed OPM’s decision, and the administrative judge affirmed. During the proceedings, the administrative judge denied the appellant’s request for discovery regarding instances in which OPM may have waived the 9-month requirement and regarding whether OPM provided her late husband notice regarding the 9-month requirement. The appellant appealed the decision to the court, arguing that 5 U.S.C. § 8441(1) was unconstitutional and that the administrative judge improperly denied her discovery requests.

Holdings:

(1) The court found that 5 U.S.C. § 8441(1) does not violate the Constitution because there is a rational basis for Congress to use an imprecise set of criteria as a proxy to ensure that the marriage was entered into for reasons other than the desire to shortly acquire benefits.

(2) The court found that the administrative judge did not abuse her discretion in denying the appellant’s discovery requests because: (a) she had no reasonable belief that OPM has previously waived the 9-month requirement and, even if OPM had previously done so, it would still be required to follow the statutory requirements when reviewing the appellant’s application; and (b) there was no dispute that the appellant’s late husband submitted all of the election forms to ensure that she received survivor benefits and, even if he was unfamiliar with the statutory requirements contained in the election forms he signed, such fact would not provide a basis for waiving the requirements.

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#ThrowbackThursday: Secretary of State Answers Questions During the Daily Press Briefing

Posted: 2:02 am ET
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Via state.gov

Secretary of State John Kerry delivers remarks from Boston and answers questions from the press during the State Department’s Daily Press Briefing in Washington, D.C., on June 16, 2015 [State Department Photo/ Public Domain]

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