The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Politics

February 7, 2013

In the Loop: Interior pick could watch, not deliver, State of the Union

By Al Kamen

The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — The nomination announcement Wednesday afternoon of Sally Jewell, chief executive of outdoor company REI, to be secretary of the interior would put her eighth in the line of presidential succession should anything happen to President Obama, Vice President Biden, House and Senate leaders and the top four Cabinet officials at State, Treasury, Defense and Justice.

Except for one problem: She was born in England — came here when she was 3 — and thus doesn't qualify. She would hardly be the first Cabinet member in this situation.

Others affected by this in recent years include Bush II Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, born in Taiwan, and Clinton Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, born in the Czech Republic. Ditto Nixon's German-born secretary of state, Henry Kissinger.

What this means is that, if confirmed, Jewell will be forced to attend every State of the Union address, since she'll never be the "designated successor."

On another note, if she gets the job, she'll be overseeing some places with a history of sweatshops that could compete with REI. REI says it manufactures gear and apparel around the world, including China, Taiwan and El Salvador, but it prides itself as being quite scrupulous in monitoring working conditions at its suppliers.

But as head of the Interior Department, Jewell would have jurisdiction over a few U.S. territories — especially the Northern Marianas — that were criticized for years as havens for immigrant smuggling, prostitution and sweatshops. (Since they're U.S. territories, the clothing made there can be labeled "Made in U.S.A." and come in duty-free.)

An Interior official assured us, however, that congressionally mandated minimum wage increases and "new global trade rules embraced by the U.S." have taken care of the problem.

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