WASHINGTON -- Richard McGahey, assistant labor secretary for policy, might have received the nod from Labor Secretary Alexis Herman to become the new head of the Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration.
Mr. McGahey did not return calls seeking comment, but has informally told some friends he is going through security clearances for the position.
The job would be a lateral move for Mr. McGahey, an economist, who was confirmed by lawmakers for his current job in April. The position has been vacant since E. Olena Berg left in June.
A Labor Department spokesman also declined to comment. But observers believe it is unlikely Ms. Herman would announce Mr. McGahey's nomination until January, when Congress reconvenes.
Washington insiders say the Clinton administration, by picking Mr. McGahey, hoped to fill the very visible spot without the confirmation being derailed by partisan politics. Administration officials hoped lawmakers might be willing to do only a perfunctory screening since he had been through the confirmation process once.
But a spokesman for the Senate Labor Committee, the relevant committee on Capitol Hill, said Committee Chairman Sen. Jim Jeffords, R-Vt., had denied the Clinton administration's request.
"They've informally queried us about the chairman's reaction to that kind of proposal, and the chairman said that the position is important enough that the nomination (would need to) go through the confirmation process," Joe Karpinski, the committee spokesman said.
Although Mr. McGahey is not well known in the retirement arena, he is familiar with the workings of public pension funds.
He was deputy comptroller for policy and management under New York City Comptroller Elizabeth Holtzman. Mr. McGahey also is familiar with pension policy issues from the ERISA Advisory Council, a citizens' group set up under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act to influence the Labor Department's policy proposals. He served on the committee between 1996 and 1997.
Mr. McGahey also was executive director of the Joint Economic Committee of Congress in the early 1990s, so he's familiar with such issues as social investing.
Mr. McGahey served as deputy commissioner for policy and research for New York's economic development agencies under Democratic Gov. Mario Cuomo. He also worked with White House economic adviser Gene Sperling.
But Mr. McGahey's interest in economically targeted investments could pose a problem during confirmation hearings. Republican lawmakers largely oppose social investing.
"I heard that people who worked on the Senate Labor Committee with Rick McGahey knew his views on social investing and that wasn't an issue (during his earlier confirmation process) because he would have nothing to do with it in a policy job," said a source who declined to be identified. "But it's absolutely relevent if it's a PWBA post," the source said.