Lew's Nomination to OMB Director Hits Two Progressive Bumps in the Road

by Sam Rosen-Amy, 9/23/2010

One would expect that a Democratic nominee for a cabinet-level position might face resistance from Senate Republicans. After all, that's how partisan politics works in this country. But today, Jack Lew, President Obama's nominee for Office of Management and Budget (OMB) director, faced opposition from not one, but two liberal senators, while at the same time earning unanimous support from Republican senators.

The first bump came during a Senate Budget Committee vote on Lew's nomination. Earlier this week, the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee (HSGAC) approved Lew's nomination unanimously, and considering the Budget Committee received Lew rather warmly, the vote should have been a cake-walk. However, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), voted against Lew's nomination, saying in a press release "Frankly, I found too many echoes of the failed policies of the past in [Lew's] responses to my questions on trade policy, Social Security, deregulation of banks and other issues." The Huffington Post wrote about some of the differences between Sanders and Lew, which I talked about here.

Despite Sanders' opposition, the twenty-two other senators on the committee, including ten Republican senators, voted for the nomination, meaning all that stood between Lew and the OMB post was a vote on the floor of the Senate.

Oh, that and Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA). The senator from Louisiana, who, I would point out, is not up for re-election anytime soon, decided to place a hold on Lew's nomination, blocking it from coming to the floor, until Obama promises to lift its BP-inspired moratorium on deep-water drilling. "Although Mr. Lew clearly possesses the expertise necessary to serve as one of the President's most important economic advisors, I found that he lacked sufficient concern for the host of economic challenges confronting the Gulf Coast," Landrieu said in a press release. "I cannot support further action on Mr. Lew's nomination to be a key economic advisor to the President until I am convinced that the President and his Administration understand the detrimental impacts that the actual and de facto moratoria continue to have on the Gulf Coast."

To be blunt, Landrieu's hold is both absurd and irresponsible. Lew, and his nomination, has nothing to do with the moratorium, and, as shown by the two committee votes, is remarkably well-liked. At the same time, the window for a floor vote on Lew's nomination is very small, since the Senate is leaving for the election next week, and the 2012 budget process is beginning in the agencies. If Lew isn't confirmed soon, he won't be involved in the first stages of the budget process, which is a significant part of his job.

By randomly choosing to take Lew's nomination hostage, Landrieu is potentially causing havoc with the budget. And I see little possibility for Obama to accede to her demands, for obvious reasons. Landrieu should drop her hold sooner rather than later, and allow Lew's nomination a fair floor vote before the budget process leaves him behind.

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