Senate considers unanimous-consent on Obama Cabinet

The Senate on Tuesday is expected to attempt unanimous-approval votes of President-elect Obama’s Cabinet nominees, but it is uncertain who will be cleared by the upper chamber on Inauguration Day.

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Senate Democratic leaders have circulated a unanimous consent request for 15 nominations at various departments, from Secretary of State nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton to United Nations Ambassador nominee Susan Rice. A senior Democratic aide cautions that leaders are uncertain how many will actually win unanimous approval, and that any roll-call votes that are necessary would be held on Wednesday.

The 15 names also include Attorney General nominee Eric Holder, Agriculture Secretary nominee Tom Vilsack, Education Secretary nominee Arne Duncan, Homeland Security Secretary nominee Janet Napolitano, Interior Secretary nominee Ken Salazar, Labor Secretary nominee Hilda Solis, Energy Secretary nominee Steven Chu, Environmental Protection Agency Secretary nominee Lisa Jackson and Deputy Defense Secretary nominee William Lynn.

The list does not include all nominees, such as Health and Human Services Secretary nominee Tom Daschle or Treasury Secretary nominee Timothy Geithner.

At least some of the names are unlikely to receive unanimous approval — Holder, for example, has not yet been approved by the Judiciary Committee, and Clinton’s nomination was opposed last week in the Foreign Relations Committee by Sen. David Vitter (R-La.).

Still, the anticipated unanimous consent moves show that Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) want to fill Obama’s Cabinet quickly.

Little legislative business is expected otherwise in either the House or Senate on Tuesday, with most of the day devoted to Inaugural events. No roll-call votes are scheduled, although both chambers will be in session — the House convenes at 10 a.m., the Senate at 3 p.m.

Wednesday or Thursday could bring a final Senate vote on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. The bid for cloture on the bill fell four votes short last April, but with strengthened Democratic majorities in Congress, the bill is expected to pass in the 111th Congress.

The House passed its Ledbetter bill 247-171 earlier this month and the Senate last week voted 72-23 to invoke cloture on the measure, which would allow greater leeway for employees to sue employers for wage discrimination.

In the House this week, three powerful committees (Appropriations, Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce) will mark up the economic stimulus bill.

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