In April of last year, candidate Joe Biden said of his Cabinet, if elected President, “I don’t have any limitation on if someone were a Republican if they’re the best-qualified person to do it.” As President-elect in December, he pledged to be a “president for all Americans”.
The apparent demise of his nominee for Office of Management and Budget (OMB) director, Neera Tanden, provides an opportunity for President Biden to fulfill his promises—by naming a Republican as his new OMB director selection.
There are numerous Republicans who either directly endorsed Mr. Biden's candidacy, or took positions in opposition to Donald Trump's reelection. that would make an outstanding OMB director. Former Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and former Rep./Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) immediately come to mind. Both were deficit hawks in Congress, something that has been lacking in both parties in recent years. Other possibilities include former DHS Secretary Tom Ridge, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, Jr. , as well as former Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA) and former presidential candidate Carly Fiorina and former California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates the current budget deficit at $2.3 trillion and the national debt at $22.5 trillion. That's before the pending $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill becomes law. The need for a strong, fiscally conservative budget director is obvious. Profligate spending under Presidents Obama and Trump, with unfortunate acquiescence by both parties in Congress, has put the nation's fiscal condition in great peril.
And events such as 9/11, Katrina, the mortgage crisis, and COVID have demonstrated that the government's M - management - part of OMB is in serious need of improvement.
Today, more than half of the federal government's 2 million-person workforce (excluding the Postal Service and uniformed military personnel) are in positions that are commercial in nature. These are government jobs that violate the "Yellow Pages Test" - a rule of thumb in public administration that says if the government is doing something that you can find from private sector companies in the Yellow Pages of the phone, that activity should be considered for conversion from government to private sector performance. The federal government currently has no process in place to even study such positions and activities. In fact, a congressional moratorium has prohibited such a procedure by law. This management improvement, which also has budgetary implications, needs to be addressed by the next OMB director.
President Biden could advance bipartisanship in Washington and help set a new tone by naming a Republican as director of OMB.
John M. Palatiello is a public affairs consultant who has previously served as Congressional staff and as a member of advisory committees and commissions to Federal, state and local government. He is a partner in Miller-Wenhold Capitol Strategies, LLC and president of the Business Coalition for Fair Competition (BCFC).