Finance Committee acts / doesn’t act on important Tax Court, Social Security, and HHS Appointments

Linda is returning to blogging again.  Welcome back.   Dan

by Linda Beale

Finance Committee acts/doesn’t act on important Tax Court, Social Security, and HHS Appointments

As the Senate Finance Committee continued work on its markup yesterday, it approved several important nominees for positions in the Social Security Administration and in the Tax Court, but failed to move forward the nomination of the current Acting Deputy Director of Health and Human Services to position of Director.

Elizabeth Copeland and Vik Stoll were reported favorably as nominees for position as a Tax Court judge.

  • Elizabeth Copeland was nominated on May 1, 2015 by President Obama.  She graduated with honors from the Univeristy of Texas in 1986 and then worked as an auditor for several years before studying law at the University of Texas and receiving her J.D. in 1992.  She was an attorney-advisory to U.S. Tax Court Judge Mary Ann Cohen in 1992-93, and then joined the law firm of Oppenheimer, Blend, Harrison & Tate in 1993.  In 2012, she moved with others from Oppenheimer to become a partner at Strasburger & Price LLP.  Her practice has been in the tax controversy area, and she has been an active member of the ABA Tax Section and the State Bar of Texas, chairing the State Bar’s Section of Taxation in 2013-14.  She received the Janet Spraegens Pro Bono Award from the ABA Tax Section in 2009
  • Vik Stoll was nominated on November 5, 2015 by President Obama.  He is a University of Missouri Law School graduate who started work with a boutique tax firm in Kansas City in 1979, doing tax controversy work.  He stayed there as the firm expanded into a 500 member firm (Stinson, Leonard & Street).  During that time, he worked on a range of tax matters for small businesses and individuals.  He left that firm in 2009 to become Director of Collections in Jackson County.

Andrew Eanes was also favorably reported as nominee to be deputy commissioner of Social Security. See the Social Security News providing biogratphical informationfrom August 3, 2014 (yes, this is a nomination that has not been acted on for a considerable period of time).  He graduated from Ohio Northern University and earned an M.B.A. from Baldwin Wallace College.  He has served in various positions, including a Director at Sprint United Management Company from 1989-92, VP and General Manager for Sprint (United Telephone Florida) from 1992-94 and various positions at Sprint from until 2003.  He has also worked with Premiere Global Services, BT Conferencing, and served as Chief Operating Officer at Dynis from 2011-2012.

Since then, he has been a vice president at Agile Government Services Incorporated.   When one sees the length of time this nomination has been outstanding, one might think it was just another example of the obdurate right-wing obstructionism that has been on display most pointedly in connection with the Republican majority’s refusal to act on the President’s nomination for a replacement for Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court.  Yet one does have to wonder why a person with no experience in government and no obvious involvement with, or understanding of, the complex Social Security system and agency would be nominated by President Obama for this position or approved by the Senate Finance Committee for this position.    It may be, however, that Mr. Eanes’ IT knowledge and experience will add a needed awareness about technological potential to what seems to be a very staid Social Security Administration that is still functioning in a very old non-digital environment most of the time.  If he has those skills that will allow him to help move the agency into the digital era, that could well be a truly winning qualification.

But there was one nominee that has been up for consideration for an extraordinarily long time that the Senate Finance Committee did not include in its favorable reporting.  That is Dr. Mary Wakefield, who was nominated to be the deputy secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (announced in a July 9, 2015 White House press release). Dr. Wakefield has a nursing degree (B.S.N. and M.S.N. and Ph.D.) and has served as a professor  and Director of a health center at both George Mason University and at the University of North Dakota.  She has been active in national health issues for all of her career, including serving as a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Consumer Protection and Quality in the Health Care Industry and the National Advisory Committee on Rural Health and Human Services.

She is also familiar with the ways of Congress, having served on the staffs of Senators Kent Conrad, Jocelyn Burdick, and Quentin Burdick from 1987 to 1996.  At the time of her nomination, she had been serving in an administrative position in the Department since 2009 and has been Acting Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services since April 2015.  Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) issued astatement in the Finance Committee markup of the ID Theft Prevention and Taxpayer Protection Bills yesterday (Apr. 18, 2016) noting that her nomination has not been moved forward “for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with her top-notch qualifications or her job.”

cross posted with ataxingmatter