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Werfel missed at Senate hearing

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Danny Werfel is just starting his new gig as acting IRS chief, but leaders of a Senate oversight committee are already wishing he were back in his old post as controller of the Office of Management and Budget.

Werfel “has demonstrated integrity in everything he’s done in the federal government,” Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said at a hearing today. “My hope is that he’s  there for a short period of time and back where we can use him in a better way.”

“He really has a base of knowledge that very few people have.”

The committee’s chairman, Tom Carper, D-Del., quickly seconded, joking that “I approve this message.”

Werfel had been scheduled to testify at the hearing on program duplication and overlap, but instead assumed his new job today. As a result, Gene Dodaro, head of the Government Accountability Office, had the witness table to himself.

The bipartisan praise suggested one reason that Werfel–a career financial manager (albeit Senate-confirmed) who has worked closely with the committee on improper payment issues–was chosen to run the IRS despite never having overseen a large agency: A straight-shooter reputation with Congress in a job that will likely call for plenty of face time on Capitol Hill in the weeks to come.

But his exit from OMB adds to the exodus of senior leadership at the budget agency. Although Director Sylvia Burwell quickly won Senate confirmation last month, both the deputy director positions are vacant, as is the post of administrator at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs and, of course, Werfel’s job.

Although Carper’s committee later in the day approved Brian Deese to be deputy budget director, a final vote by the Senate won’t happen until next month at the earliest. Ditto for the nomination of Howard Shelanski to head the regulatory affairs office. President Obama has so far not formally settled on any candidate for the posts of deputy management director or controller.

“Nobody’s home,” Carper said. “Sylvia’s terrific, but we’ve got to get a really great team around her.”

 

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