The Senate on Nov. 1 confirmed Eric L. Hirschhorn’s nomination to be undersecretary of the U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security, a position he has held through a recess appointment by President Obama since April 2, 2010.
Hirschhorn is highly regarded among U.S. export interests for the work that he and Kevin J. Wolf, Commerce’s assistant secretary for export administration, have done to steer reform of the nation’s Cold War-era export control regulations.
His confirmation is a big deal because it provides some certainty that the momentum will continue for getting rid of archaic licensing rules that cost companies overseas sales, while also better safeguarding technology with true implications for national security.
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It’s good to see that the Senate has gotten past the psychological barrier of permanently approving someone who was installed through the recess appointment process. We can argue whether or not the White House was justified in going around the Senate, which is designated under the Constitution with confirming nominations for senior posts, to put Hirschorn in office. Since Hirschorn has proven himself it’s in the nation’s best interest to let him continue his work.
Now the Senate should do the same thing for Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Alan Bersin. It can’t hide behind the argument that the White House must be punished for skirting the confirmation process, because it just approved Hirschhorn.
Bersin too has been a big asset to the administration and the trade community, instituting changes to improve border security and processing of international cargo and passengers. That momentum is in jeopardy if he doesn’t get more time to implement his reforms.
The difference is that Hirschhorn was unanimously voted out the Housing, Banking and Urban Affairs Committee. The Finance Committee never approved Bersin.
CBP and industry officials are holding their collective breath that Bersin will get an extension before his appointment runs out at the end of the year. – Eric Kulisch