Obama announces new members of his team

  • Updated: March 11, 2009 - 10:24 PM

 

The Obama administration on Wednesday named several nominees to join the team:

Ambassador to NATO: Ivo Daalder, a former Clinton administration National Security Council official.

Assistant secretary of defense for international security: Alexander Vershbow, a former ambassador to Russia and South Korea.

Head of State Department legal team: Richard Verma, a lawyer and former Senate aide.

Drug czar: Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske, 59, will face a daunting set of challenges as the next drug czar, particularly in the Southwest, where violence involving Mexican drug gangs is spilling into the United States, Vice President Joe Biden said in introducing the man President Obama wants to coordinate the nation's drug policy. The drug policy coordinator's office will lose its Cabinet-level status.

The formal nominations set the stage for Senate confirmation hearings.

Also, officials said other nominations are imminent, including:

Guantanamo envoy: Two senior officials said veteran diplomat Daniel Fried, assistant secretary of state for European affairs, will be named a special envoy to oversee the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

FDA: Obama intends to name former New York City Health Commissioner Margaret Hamburg to lead the troubled Food and Drug Administration, a person close to Hamburg said. Hamburg and Baltimore Health Commissioner Joshua Sharfstein have been talked about for weeks as the leading candidates for the top two spots at the agency, with Sharfstein as Hamburg's deputy commissioner.

SOUTH CAROLINA GOV. REJECTS STIMULUS FUNDS

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford became the first governor to reject some of his state's share of the economic stimulus money, spurning $700 million that he said would harm his state's residents in the long run. Sanford, a Republican who served in Congress in the 1990s, made his announcement in a daylong tour that fed speculation that he's eyeing a 2012 presidential run.

South Carolina's GOP-controlled General Assembly is poised to rebuff Sanford and seek the stimulus money on its own. Republican legislators who have clashed with Sanford for years over his anti-spending stances joined Democrats in an overwhelming vote Monday to include $350 million in stimulus money in the 2009-10 state budget.

Sanford turned down the federal money despite new data showing that his state's unemployment rate had risen to 10.4 percent, the second highest in the country. "We need to look longer term and much more holistically at the notion of economic stimulus," he said.

LAWMAKERS VOW TO IMPROVE FOOD SAFETY

A parade of Democratic and Republican lawmakers promised at a House hearing on Wednesday that they would work to pass a broad array of changes in the nation's food safety system, although they disagreed on crucial details.

Among the sharpest areas of disagreement are whether to split the Food and Drug Administration into two agencies and whether to finance increased safety inspections through fees on industry or through general appropriations.

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said he would oppose splitting the FDA, at least for now. But Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., who is vice chairwoman of the commerce committee, said she continued to advocate a separate agency to oversee food safety.

The differences are not partisan. "On food safety, there is no daylight between Henry Waxman and Joe Barton," said Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, the senior Republican on the committee.

The House has held nearly two dozen food safety hearings in the past year, focusing on contamination in peanut butter, spinach, tomatoes, jalapeño peppers, pet food and seafood.

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