UPDATED: Sen. Levin announces presidential waiver for Lynn, restates support for nomination.
Sen. Carl Levin issued a statement late Friday evening about what looked like the increasingly beleaguered nomination of Bill Lynn to be deputy defense secretary. One line of the statement is quite interesting. Levin acknowledges that Lynn's last job with Raytheon "would have precluded Mr. Lynn's service."
Here's the statement:
"The Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has removed an obstacle to the confirmation of Bill Lynn to be Deputy Secretary of Defense by waiving the provisions of President Obama’s Executive Order on Ethics Commitments that would have precluded Mr. Lynn’s service.
"The Senate Armed Services Committee will continue to insist that Mr. Lynn comply with a strict set of ethics rules that we apply to all nominees, including the requirement to recuse himself, for a period of one year, from any decisions involving his prior employer, unless specifically authorized to participate by an appropriate ethics official. The decision of the Administration to impose an additional set of requirements, and then waive them for this nominee, does not change the standards to which we hold all nominees."
"I support Mr. Lynn’s nomination and look forward to prompt consideration by the Senate."
Four good government groups want the Senate Armed Services Committee to reject Bill Lynn, the Obama administration’s nominee to be deputy defense secretary.
The letter to Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the committee's ranking member, cites Lynn's last job, head lobbyist for Raytheon, as the primary reason for their opposition in light of President Barack Obama's executive order barring senior government service to anyone who lobbied the agency they would serve during the last two years. The four groups, the Project On Government Oversight, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the Government Accountability Project and Public Citizen, say Lynn's nomination probably would have gone unopposed until Obama issued the executive order. A waiver could be issued by the OMB and White House lawyers if someone's service "is in the public interest."
The groups say "Mr. Lynn simply could not effectively serve" since his past work "clearly violates" the executive order. Should Lynn be confirmed, his past work at Raytheon would cause "an impossible conflict" and be a "frontal violation of the revolving door reforms; yet confirming him without a waiver and requiring him to recuse himself from matters that affect Raytheon would make it impossible for him to effectively serve in his position."
Before the groups issued their letter, Sen. Levin's office issued a statement on Thursday. "Given the president's new stricter rules requiring his appointees to recuse themselves from matters or issues on which they have lobbied, the Senate Armed Services Committee will need further information before proceeding with the nomination of William J. Lynn III to be deputy secretary of defense," the statement said. "The committee will await the administration's assessment as to whether the new rules will preclude Mr. Lynn, who was a registered lobbyist for a defense contractor, from participating in key Department of Defense decisions, and if so, whether a waiver will be forthcoming and what the scope of the waiver will be."
I've emailed his press secretary asking for any reaction the senator might have to the letter calling for Lynn's rejection and will update as needed. Given that he pledged the fastest confirmation possible to Lynn and the other three senior defense nominees during their confirmation hearing, Levin may find it difficult to say no to the former Raytheon lobbyist. Of course, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has publicly praised Lynn as his pick.