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Dan Tuohy's Granite Status: Granite Staters still awaiting the call as Trump nominees


June 15. 2017 4:08AM


President Donald Trump’s pace of sending nominees to the Senate is becoming more than a trickle, though scores of posts remain empty and not even a handful of Granite Staters have so far gotten the call.

Local Trump supporters say there are more New Hampshire names still in the mix for an array of positions. Anticipation is building.

"I think ultimately there’ll be some appointments coming out of New Hampshire. It’s just a question of when," said Steve Stepanek, a state co-chairman for Trump in 2016.

The Senate voted 94-4 last week to confirm former U.S. Sen. Scott P. Brown as Ambassador to New Zealand and to the independent State of Samoa. U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, D-NH, voted in favor of the nomination. Two other Granite Staters pending confirmation are Pamela Hughes Patenaude, for Deputy Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and Richard Ashooh, for Assistant Secretary of Commerce.

The waiting game is not so unusual for a new administration, as the White House focuses first on the Cabinet. Trump has complained that Democrats, who are in the minority, are being obstructionist. Others point out that the commander-in-chief, despite his Twitter grousing, has yet to even name people for hundreds and hundreds of posts that require Senate confirmation. The Partnership for Public Service and The Washington Post, in a political appointee tracker of 558 key positions requiring the Senate’s OK, reports 42 confirmed, 84 formally nominated, and 15 announced but awaiting nomination, leaving 417 posts with no nomination yet. There are more than 1,200 positions that need Senate approval.

Based on that tally, the number of New Hampshire nominees appears proportional. Given that the Granite State was Trump’s first primary victory, there are sure to be some old friends and local worthies on the administration’s radar.

Trump is far behind recent past Presidents in sending nominees to the Senate, and by a lot. For Trump nominees so far, the Post tracker puts the "average time to confirm" at 41 days, compared to 32 days for former President Barack Obama.

David Carney, who was White House political director under President George H.W. Bush, said the vetting process can be involved and protracted. And, he adds, there is hyper-partisanship on Capitol Hill these days. "It’s just the nature of the gridlock in Washington," he said.


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IT HAS been more than three months since Attorney General Jeff Sessions asked 46 U.S. attorneys to resign March 10. Emily Gray Rice, the U.S. Attorney for New Hampshire who was unanimously confirmed a year earlier, was among them. First Assistant U.S. Attorney John J. Farley has served as Acting U.S. Attorney since then. On Monday, the President sent the Senate his first eight nominees for the chief federal prosecutors: three in Alabama, and one each in Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah and Washington, D.C.


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VA ACCOUNTABILITY: U.S. Reps. Carol Shea-Porter and Ann McLane Kuster, Democrats representing the 1st and 2nd Districts, hailed passage this week of the VA Accountability First Act of 2017. The bill authorizes the Department of Veterans Affairs for a quicker process to fire, demote, or suspend employees for poor performance or misconduct. Kuster said the legislation includes her amendment, passed earlier this year, to strengthen whistleblower protections. "This legislation is an important step toward rooting out those employees who have undermined care for our veterans," Kuster said in a statement.


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SHAHEEN, who since last fall has urged Congress to hold Russia accountable for reported interference in the 2016 presidential election, applauded Senate action Wednesday approving an amendment she co-sponsored. "This bipartisan amendment is the sanctions regime that the Kremlin deserves for its actions," Shaheen said. "Following final passage, it will be important that the House follow suit, the President sign this legislation into law, and as a country, we send a strong, unified message that we will not tolerate the Kremlin’s intrusion in our democracy."


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NEW POST: Liz Johnson, former communications director for former U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, has joined U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement as director of its Office of Public Affairs. She most recently was spokesman for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch during the Senate confirmation process. As director of Public Affairs for ICE, she will direct its global communications and a staff of nearly 60, as well as serve as the principal communications adviser to the agency director and senior leadership. She previously worked as a spokesman for U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.


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PER ORDER this week of the state Ballot Law Commission, John J. Babiarz of Grafton will now be on the Libertarian ballot in the special election for the vacant House seat representing Alexandria, Ashland, Bridgewater, Bristol and Grafton. Babiarz, who has been the Libertarian Party’s gubernatorial nominee four times, was given approval with the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire gaining ballot access after 2016. The primary for this race, Grafton County District 9, is July 18. The special election is Sept. 5. Republicans running are Paul H. Simard, Vincent P. Migliore, Timothy F. Sweetsir, and Burton W. Williams. The Democrat is Tom Ploszaj, while Democrat Josh Adjutant has a write-in campaign for the primary.


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THE NEW Hampshire Democratic Party has three new hires, bringing its staff head count to 11, including Chairman Ray Buckley. The new staffers are Donald Stokes, deputy political director; Maitri Chittidi, finance director for the House and Senate caucus; and Sarah Guggenheimer, a communications associate. Stokes, a St. Anselm College graduate who served the president’s steering committee on diversity and inclusiveness, was an intern for Executive Councilor Chris Pappas and the New Hampshire Senate. Chittidi was elected secretary of the NHDP this year. She is also the New Hampshire Young Democrats’ "Young Democrat of the Year." Guggenheimer was recently with Organizing for Action, and previously worked as a local organizer for Democrats in Pennsylvania and for Hillary Clinton.


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WHY THEY RUN, a snapshot: Eddie Edwards, a Republican candidate in the 1st Congressional District, traces his inspiration to run for office to his grandmother’s conservative values, including working hard and giving back to the community. Edwards, a former police chief and the former chief of law enforcement for the New Hampshire Liquor Commission, said the upbringing inspired him to join the Navy after high school graduation, and later to become a law enforcement officer. During active duty, Edwards was stationed at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. He joined the Navy without knowing how to swim. He says he learned the Navy way — upon a 12-foot platform, with an instruction to jump into the water. Recalling those days, he laughed. "I wasn’t afraid to take on a challenge."

Dan Tuohy covers politics and government for the Union Leader and Sunday News. Email news and information to dtuohy@unionleader.com. 


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