GOP's secret hold puts Obama's Higginbottom nomination in trouble

Heather Higginbottom’s nomination to be President Obama’s deputy budget director is in deep trouble after the GOP placed a hold on it, Democrat aides said Friday.

Because of the secret hold, Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidDems search for winning playbook Dems face hard choice for State of the Union response The Memo: Immigration battle tests activists’ muscle MORE (D-Nev.) cannot move the nomination to the floor for a vote under unanimous consent.

Sen. Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsSessions: 'We should be like Canada' in how we take in immigrants DOJ wades into archdiocese fight for ads on DC buses Overnight Cybersecurity: Bipartisan bill aims to deter election interference | Russian hackers target Senate | House Intel panel subpoenas Bannon | DHS giving 'active defense' cyber tools to private sector MORE (R-Ala.), the ranking member on the Senate Budget Committee, views Higginbottom as entirely unqualified for the position. Democrat aides point to Sessions as a source of the hold, but his office would not confirm that Friday.

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“A lot of Republicans have a problem with this one, it’s not going anywhere,” one aide said.

Because of the delay, Office of Management and Budget Director Jack LewJacob (Jack) Joseph LewOvernight Finance: Hatch announces retirement from Senate | What you can expect from new tax code | Five ways finance laws could change in 2018 | Peter Thiel bets big on bitcoin Ex-Obama Treasury secretary: Tax cuts 'leaving us broke' Senator demands answers from DOJ on Russia bribery probe MORE has had to operate without a full team in place during the extremely difficult negotiations over spending.

Former deputy Rob Nabors in January became Obama’s director of legislative affairs. He has been assisting Lew in the bipartisan budget talks with six lawmakers led by Vice President Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenDemocrats will need to explain if they shut government down over illegal immigration Trump thinks he could easily beat Sanders in 2020 match-up: report Biden marks MLK Day: Americans are 'living through a battle for the soul of this nation' MORE.

The Higginbottom nomination has become a casualty of the wider budget fight and is being used by the GOP to attack Obama’s approach to spending.

An aide said that Democrats will have a hard time defending a vote for the nominee, who in testimony defended the Obama 2012 budget. The president himself has disavowed that budget and is now seeking deeper cuts, the aide said.

The 2012 Obama budget would trim about $1 trillion from the deficit over ten years, and in April Obama in a speech called for $4 trillion in cuts over 12 years.

The Senate Budget Committee approved the nomination on a party line vote on April 5.

“Given the tremendous fiscal and economic challenges facing the nation, it is critical that the President has his complete budget team in place.  I hope the full Senate moves quickly to schedule a vote on this nomination,” Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said at the time.

Conrad said Lew deserves to have his handpicked deputy in place.

Higginbottom has served as deputy director of the White House’s Domestic Policy Council, and worked on Obama’s presidential campaign.

The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved her nomination along party lines by a 6-4 vote on March 16.

Committee ranking member Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsDemocrats search for 51st net neutrality vote Overnight Tech: States sue FCC over net neutrality repeal | Senate Dems reach 50 votes on measure to override repeal | Dems press Apple on phone slowdowns, kids' health | New Android malware found Overnight Regulation: Dems claim 50 votes in Senate to block net neutrality repeal | Consumer bureau takes first step to revising payday lending rule | Trump wants to loosen rules on bank loans | Pentagon, FDA to speed up military drug approvals MORE (R-Me.) opposed the nomination and has expressed doubt about Higginbottom due to her lack of budget experience.

An aide said that Collins has not placed a hold on the nomination.