A joke made last week by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. during a Senate Executive Nominations Committee hearing may end up being more serious than anyone initially would have guessed.
Miller, looking out into the audience, noted a number of Cabinet secretaries appointed by Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. and singled out former Delegate and Insurance Commissioner Al Redmer.
“Redmer’s going to get a lot of questions,” Miller joked with the Republican former legislator. “I just want you to know that what you heard tonight is not a preview of what’s going to happen when you get up there.”
Hurt feelings among legislative Democrats a week later over Hogan’s State of the State speech may have the effect of making Miller’s words almost prophetic.
Two-dozen appointments are up for review Monday night before the Senate Committee. But it is the seven Cabinet appointments, including Redmer, made by Hogan that will likely be the focus of difficult questions.
Last week, the Senate iced five Cabinet appointments and 15 judicial appointments made by former Gov. Martin J. O’Malley, as retribution for a speech last week that angered many Democrats in the Senate and House of Delegates.
“The governor was emphatic that we can do better,” said Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden, D-Baltimore City. “We agree with him. We can do better and that starts, we think, with those individuals who will be heading some major departments.”
McFadden, a member of the nominations committee and the president pro tem of the Senate, asked Friday to hold a group of nominations that were heard a week ago. The Baltimore City Democrat tied the hold directly to Hogan’s speech.
“We thought we were moving along the track of bipartisanship and cooperation,” McFadden said.
The five appointees up for a confirmation review last week sailed through with a number of members praising Hogan’s selections:
- Sen. James E. “Ed” DeGrange on Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Secretary-designee Van T. Mitchell: “I think he will do a wonderful job.”
- McFadden, also speaking on Mitchell: “I second the nomination. He’s a great appointment.”
- Sen. Catherine E. Pugh, D-Baltimore City, on Planning Secretary-designee David R. Craig: “I always had a great deal of respect for your work.”
- Sen. Thomas M. “Mac” Middleton, D-Charles County, on Veterans Affairs Secretary-designee George Owings: “I don’t know that there’s another person that cares about veterans more than George Owings.”
But after the glowing words and jokes that were part of the roughly 23 minutes spent on the five appointments, McFadden and others say a number of unspecified concerns have been raised by a number of as-yet-unnamed senators.
Redmer, who served as insurance commissioner under Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., could face questions about how his agency responded to issues involving claims from Hurricane Isabel.
It is also likely that Joseph Bartenfelder, a farmer and Hogan’s choice for secretary of Agriculture, will face policy questions related to the phosphorous management regulations the newly-minted governor pulled back just hours after taking the oath of office.
And last week, Sen. Jamin B. “Jamie” Raskin, D-Montgomery and chair of the nominations committee, said a number of unidentified Republicans raised questions about Gen. Linda L. Singh, Hogan’s pick to lead the Maryland National Guard.
Additional appointees on the list for a confirmation hearing Monday night include:
- C. Gail Bassette, Department of General Services secretary.
- Sam Maholtra, Department of Human Resources secretary.
- Stephen T. Moyer, Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services secretary.
- John C. Wobensmith, secretary of state.
All of those appointments and the 20 held from last week could get a vote in the full Senate as early as Friday.