GOP bashes Obama on $17T debt while vetting budget nominee

Senate Republicans on Wednesday bashed President Obama for the $17 trillion national debt as they vetted his nominee for budget director.

Republicans used the two confirmation hearings for Shaun Donovan, who is now secretary of Housing and Urban Development, to put Obama's fiscal record on trial.

"This deficit, financial situation is nowhere close to being fixed," said Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the ranking Republican on the Budget Committee.

Despite the criticism, Donovan appears to be headed for an easy confirmation, given the new 50-vote threshold in the Senate for votes on executive branch appointees.

Donovan has been nominated to fill the top spot at the Office of Management and Budget to fill the vacancy created by the departure of Sylvia Burwell, who is now Health and Human Services secretary.

At the Homeland Security Committee, ranking member Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said he had “no doubt” that Donovan would win confirmation, but said he wanted Donovan to be more responsive to congressional inquiries than he has been at HUD.

“For me that is a troubling track record,” he said.

At Senate Budget, Sessions criticized Donovan for his track record managing HUD’s resources.

“His time at HUD was Mr. Donovan’s only real experience managing a budget. But there is nothing in his track record there, or anywhere else, demonstrating a strong commitment to financial discipline, a particular skill in managing taxpayer dollars, or a passion for saving money,” Sessions said.

“Indeed, Mr. Donovan’s time at HUD was marred by a series of Inspector General reports raising questions about his management of even this small department.”

Sessions cited a May 30 report from the HUD inspector general which found HUD to be improperly using more than $600,000 to pay a Donovan adviser.

“I was really rather shocked by it,” Sessions said.

Donovan replied that he was “not directly involved or aware of how this employee was paid.”

Sessions also queried Donovan about IG reports HUD’s use of the Obama stimulus, Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program and Multifamily Project Refinances.

“You’ve been there quite a number of years. I don’t know that we’ve seen yet the commitment, the dedication, the drive, the real imperative to get this government under control,” he said.

In contrast, Donovan won praise from Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine.), who introduced him at the Homeland Security Committee and said she intended to support his nomination.   Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) said Donovan has been the best HUD secretary yet, better even than her own father Moon Landrieu. She said she told her father that.

“Shaun gets embarrassed and my dad doesn’t like it, but it is true,” Sen. Landrieu said.

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