The nomination of Gordon Hartogensis as director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. (PBGC) has been kicked back to President Trump due to inaction by the US Senate.
In May, Trump nominated Hartogensis to replace PGBC Director Thomas Reeder, who was nominated by President Obama, and whose term was set to end in 2020. In a release announcing the nomination, the White House praised Hartogensis as “an investor and technology sector leader with experience managing financial equities, bonds, private placements, and software development.”
However, the move was criticized for its apparent nepotism, as Hartogensis is the brother-in-law of both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. The 2018 legislative session ended without a formal vote on Hartogensis’ appointment, and as a result, Senate rules require the nomination to be returned to the president.
The nomination “raised serious concerns” for Sens. Patty Murray (D-Washington), and Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), who sent a letter to Trump after the announcement demanding an explanation for replacing Reeder with Hartogensis. The senators said Hartogensis “seems to have little to no prior experience relevant to the pension system and the work of the PBGC.”
The senators added that “we are troubled by this unexpected and seemingly unnecessary change in the agency’s leadership, particularly as the country faces a multiemployer pension crisis.”
They also defended Reeder’s tenure, saying that he has overseen improvements in the single-employer program, and has been a proponent of reforms to help fend off the multiemployer program’s impending insolvency. They added that under Reeder’s leadership, the PBGC’s single-employer program has seen its deficit nearly cut in half.
In November, the Senate Finance Committee convened to vote on three presidential nominations, one of which was Hartogensis’. However, due to the absence of several members of the committee, the vote was postponed and was never rescheduled before the end of the 2018 legislative session.
According to Senate Rule XXXI, paragraph 6, of the Standing Rules of the Senate, “nominations neither confirmed nor rejected during the session at which they are made shall not be acted upon at any succeeding session without being again made to the Senate by the President.”
The PBGC declined to comment for this article.