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thedrifter
01-23-09, 07:30 AM
Waiver may be needed for new Pentagon No. 2
By Anne Flaherty - The Associated Press
Posted : Friday Jan 23, 2009 5:56:26 EST

WASHINGTON — Senate action on President Barack Obama’s pick to become the No. 2 official at the Pentagon slowed Thursday after lawmakers realized he might require an exemption from the administration’s own lobbying rules.

William J. Lynn III, who has broad support in Congress, has been considered a shoo-in to become the next deputy defense secretary. But Democratic leaders said they would have to wait to act on the nomination until after Obama determines whether Lynn needs a waiver exempting him from the president’s rule that individuals cannot work for the government agencies they have lobbied in the past two years.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the panel wants to determine what the waiver will say and if the rules will force Lynn to remove himself from decisions critical to the management of the department.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday he had requested Lynn be appointed as his deputy and that an exception to the lobbying rules be made. Nevertheless, Gates said, he understands Congress needs more information before it will feel comfortable with the appointment.

“I think that the White House counsel’s office, presidential personnel and our own general counsel’s office are in the process of working those arrangements out right now,” he told reporters.

Late Thursday, the Obama administration sent Congress the details of the waiver, said an Obama spokesman, who declined to provide further detail.

Lynn, who as deputy defense secretary would run much of the day-to-day operations at the Pentagon, was registered until July as a lobbyist for defense contractor Raytheon Co.

As a lobbyist, Lynn worked on Pentagon budget matters, including contracting policy, the military’s use of space, missile defense, munitions and artillery, sensors and radars and advanced technology programs. Raytheon is one of the military’s top contractors, doing $18.3 billion in U.S. government business in 2007.

“If you are a lobbyist entering my administration, you will not be able to work on matters you lobbied on, or in the agencies you lobbied, during the previous two years,” Obama has declared. The new plan, he said, “represents a clean break from business as usual.”

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters that even the toughest rules require “reasonable exceptions” and that the waiver provisions were added to allow “uniquely qualified individuals” like Lynn serve.

When Levin was asked by reporters whether relying on waivers weakens the administration’s desire to get tough on lobbyists, the Democratic senator said “I don’t think it helps to reinforce the intent of it.”

Other Democrats said they were concerned but wouldn’t stand in the way. Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, who has established a reputation as a watchdog on government waste and ethics issues, said she has concerns about the nomination but will support it so long as Lynn promises to become “a reformer” on the job.

“I am more worried sometimes about the (revolving) door going the other way,” when officials leave government agencies to become lobbyists, she told reporters.

Lynn is “giving up money to come back for less salary to do public work. I think under those circumstances, he deserves the benefit of the doubt,” she said.

Ellie