Obama Appoints Burwell, Wal-Mart Foundation President, to Direct OMB

Obama has a history of appointing business leaders that come from companies with questionable labor practices. And his recent nomination of Sylvia Matthews Burwell, president of the Walmart Foundation, as the director of the Office of Management and Budget seems in keeping with this legacy.

Should the nomination carry, Burwell will take a position that has substantial influence on policy, the office itself having the power to block federal regulations. This begs the question: will her appointment have the potential for a conflict of influence on federal policy? Walmart has attempted to influence the OMB throughout Obama’s administration, including an attempt to block a Department of Labor rule governing employee benefit plans proposed three years ago.

The previously appointed OMB director, Jack Lew, served as chief operating officer of New York University, which took away organizing rights from its graduate student employees. He was promoted to White House Chief of Staff and is now Obama’s Treasury Secretary nominee.

During his first term, Obama also chose members of Boeing’s board as commerce secretary, chief of staff, and export council chair after his own appointed officials at the National Labor Relations Board  pursued investigations against the company for allegedly punishing strikers.

In addition to being troubling, the nominations are slow coming—especially for federal judiciary positions during Obama’s first term— something Republicans and some Democrats have criticized him for. Yet 2013 seems promising so far—he’s made three dozen candidates since January and is expected to name more over the next few months.

But, the lack of speed of the appointments has only been exaggerated by the lack of reform regarding the filibuster. And, the judiciary is suffering from both the lack of nominations and the blocking of the ones that are coming. According to a recent report from the Constitutional Accountability Center in Washington, the federal judiciary has had more than 750 days with at least 80 vacancies on the bench.

Ashley Wright is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.

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