Washington Times, January 7, 2019
Over the course of the first nearly two years of the Trump administration, the president has filled the Executive Branch with approximately 400 qualified nominees through the Senate confirmation process. Unfortunately, hundreds of others remain in limbo.
As the 116th Congress starts, we are deeply concerned that some highly qualified nominees who were not confirmed by the last Congress will not be resubmitted. Failure to resubmit these nominees would be a generous reward for those in Congress who want to obstruct the president's America First agenda.
For example, in the spring Mr. Trump nominated Ronald W. Mortensen to head up the State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, which oversees refugee policy. Incredibly, Mr. Mortensen is still awaiting Senate confirmation, largely due to the efforts of open-borders lobbyists and left-wing activists to scuttle his nomination.
Ron Mortensen is impeccably qualified. He served for decades in the State Department as a career foreign service officer. More recently, he has led numerous international humanitarian assistance and economic development programs in the Middle East, the Caribbean and Africa.
Opponents of the president's immigration agenda, such as the refugee industry contractors and immigrant advocacy groups, and ethnic grievance activists have viciously attached Ron Mortensen, not because of his character or his experience, but as a proxy for the Trump policies, which they disagree with. These are groups that want the United States to admit ever-higher numbers of refugees without regard for the impact on American communities, national security or how these resources could be more effectively deployed to help even more people abroad.
The refugee contractors oppose the Trump policy initiatives in large part because less refugee resettlement in the United States and more focus on international assistance means that they will have to downsize their operations here, cut back on the six-figure salaries for executives and beat the pavement for more private support to replace taxpayer dollars.
In solidarity with the contractors, the ACLU has smeared Ron Mortensen as an "anti-immigrant zealot." The Anti-Defamation League has falsely claimed that he has used "extreme anti-immigrant rhetoric" that negates his qualifications and ability to work with refugees. These charges are laughable considering Mr. Mortensen's service and personal sacrifice working for the people of Haiti providing disaster assistance following the 2010 earthquake, and for the people of West Africa in helping to fight the Ebola outbreak.
In another example, Ronald Vitiello, Mr. Trump's pick to lead Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), was browbeaten and insulted last month by Senate Democrats during a hearing before the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Sen. Kamala Harris, California Democrat, actually suggested to Mr. Vitiello that there were similarities between ICE and the Ku Klux Klan. Mr. Vitiello, too, is eminently qualified for this post, having served as acting deputy commissioner of the Border Patrol, but allowing Democrats to terminate this nomination is capitulating to their perversion of the process.
The obstruction of nominees goes beyond the immigration agencies. Brian Bulatao, who was the CIA's number three in charge as chief operation officer, is still awaiting confirmation as undersecretary of State for management. Thelma Drake, a former member of Congress and former director of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transit, was not voted on as administrator of the Federal Transit Administration after nearly a year of waiting.
These are just several of countless examples. There are still nearly 200 nominees who were stuck in limbo awaiting Senate confirmation, held up not only by Democrats but also by a few hostile Republicans, who seek to subvert the administration's goal to adjust immigration and other policies to better suit the national interest and our values.
While these nominees are in waiting, they must decline other opportunities and sometimes go without a salary and bear other hardship on their families — but this is a sacrifice they have been willing to make in order to serve this country dutifully in the roles the president has chosen for them.
Meanwhile, some lower-level appointments to policy jobs in departments such as the refugee office at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service are being filled by career migration promoters who have worked at activist groups opposed to Trump policies, such as Human Rights First and the Capitol Area Immigrants Rights Coalition.
The president should not reward the obstructionists for their refusal to approve highly qualified nominees. He should resubmit them to the 116th Congress and fight to make sure the administration is filled with the people who are committed to the Trump agenda.