First Latino Woman to Lead Federal Workforce Is on the Job

National Journal
Jordain Carney
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Jordain Carney
Oct. 31, 2013, 4:06 p.m.

The Of­fice of Per­son­nel Man­age­ment of­fi­cially has its first His­pan­ic fe­male dir­ect­or, with the Sen­ate’s con­firm­a­tion of Kath­er­ine Archu­leta by a 62-35 vote on Wed­nes­day even­ing. It marks the end of an al­most five-month con­firm­a­tion pro­cess stalled by Re­pub­lic­ans’ con­cerns about the Af­ford­able Care Act.

“I look for­ward to work­ing shoulder to shoulder with her to im­prove the his­tor­ic­al un­der­rep­res­ent­a­tion of Latino fed­er­al em­ploy­ees across all de­part­ments,” said Hec­tor Sanc­hez, the chair­man of the Na­tion­al His­pan­ic Lead­er­ship Agenda — a co­ali­tion of more than 30 or­gan­iz­a­tions from across the His­pan­ic com­munity.

Archu­leta, 64, was named to the agency’s top post by Pres­id­ent Obama in late May. She was en­dorsed by the Sen­ate Home­land Se­cur­ity and Gov­ern­ment­al Af­fairs Com­mit­tee in a 6-4 vote at the end of Ju­ly, be­fore Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., placed a hold on her nom­in­a­tion. Coburn and oth­er Re­pub­lic­an sen­at­ors who voted against Archu­leta cited is­sues with Obama­care as the reas­ons for op­pos­ing her ap­point­ment.

Melody Gonza­lez, NHLA’s ap­point­ment dir­ect­or, stressed that the GOP road­b­locks had “noth­ing to do with Archu­leta’s qual­i­fic­a­tions.” OPM is es­sen­tially the hu­man-re­sources de­part­ment for the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment, and Archu­leta has been a top ad­min­is­trat­or for two Cab­in­et sec­ret­ar­ies.

After the Sen­ate con­firmed her on Wed­nes­day, White House press sec­ret­ary Jay Car­ney said in a state­ment that the pres­id­ent shares Archu­leta’s “vis­ion for di­versity and in­clu­sion in the fed­er­al work­force.” The NHLA says it will con­tin­ue to push for great­er Latino rep­res­ent­a­tion with­in the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment, with Sanc­hez not­ing that the group ex­pects a second His­pan­ic to be named to join Labor Sec­ret­ary Thomas Perez in the Obama Cab­in­et.

Late last month, NHLA cri­ti­cized the lack of pro­gress on Archu­leta’s nom­in­a­tion. But the Col­or­ado nat­ive had more to over­come than is­sues with the Af­ford­able Care Act. Her nom­in­a­tion also had to be squeezed in­to a busy, but lim­ited, Sen­ate sched­ule.

Coburn re­moved his hold on Aug. 8, but the Sen­ate was out of ses­sion un­til Sept. 9. When sen­at­ors re­turned, they spent the ap­prox­im­ately 16 days they were in ses­sion last month be­ing briefed on an in­ter­na­tion­al crisis in Syr­ia, be­fore switch­ing gears and try­ing — un­suc­cess­fully — to avoid a gov­ern­ment shut­down.

As of Thursday, more than 30 nom­in­ees — not in­clud­ing priv­ileged nom­in­a­tions — were stuck in the Sen­ate’s con­firm­a­tion pro­cess.

Archu­leta is the first OPM nom­in­ee to re­quire a clo­ture vote for con­firm­a­tion, something Sanc­hez called “dif­fi­cult for us to un­der­stand.” But it is re­flect­ive of a lar­ger use of clo­ture votes in the Sen­ate dur­ing the last 10 Con­gresses, ac­cord­ing to a re­port by the Con­gres­sion­al Re­search Ser­vice. Dur­ing the 112th Con­gress, clo­ture votes to over­come fili­busters were re­quired on 33 nom­in­ees to the ju­di­cial or ex­ec­ut­ive branch.

Archu­leta was the na­tion­al polit­ic­al dir­ect­or for Obama’s 2012 pres­id­en­tial cam­paign, and this won’t be her first stint in Wash­ing­ton.

She began her ca­reer in Den­ver, work­ing for then-May­or Fe­d­erico Peña. When Pres­id­ent Clin­ton picked him in 1993 to head the Trans­port­a­tion De­part­ment, Archu­leta fol­lowed Peña to Wash­ing­ton — even­tu­ally be­ing named his chief of staff. She also served as his seni­or policy ad­viser dur­ing his time as En­ergy sec­ret­ary, be­fore re­turn­ing to Den­ver. Back in the Centen­ni­al State, Arachu­leta worked in Den­ver for then-May­or John Hick­en­loop­er, who is now gen­er­at­ing buzz as a po­ten­tial 2016 Demo­crat­ic pres­id­en­tial can­did­ate.

In 2009, Archu­leta tackled an­oth­er fed­er­al de­part­ment, ac­cept­ing the chief of staff po­s­i­tion for then-Labor Sec­ret­ary Hilda Sol­is.

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