Obama nominee faces GOP anger over White House budget delays

Sylvia Burwell, President Obama’s nominee to be budget director, faces a critical week.

She will be meeting with key Republicans to tamp down any opposition they may have.

ADVERTISEMENT
On Tuesday, Burwell will meet with Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), who led the opposition to Jack Lew becoming Treasury secretary earlier this year. Grassley is withholding judgment on Burwell until she has a hearing, an aide said.

Also next week, Burwell will meet with Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), a Tea Party-backed fiscal hawk who nonetheless had a cordial dinner with Obama and other GOP senators this month.

Democrats say a Budget committee nomination hearing is being looked at for late April, after Easter recess and the administration’s budget is presented.

Burwell will also have a hearing in the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee given the Office of Management and Budget’s multifaceted role of preparing a budget, producing regulations and running the bureaucracy.

Johnson sits on both the Budget and Homeland Security committees.

Senate Republicans have lambasted Obama for repeatedly failing to submit a budget on time and sources said that could spell trouble for Burwell.

The 2014 Obama budget is now supposed to come out on April 8, according to the White House. It was due Feb. 4.

This year, Republicans showed with the nomination of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel that they are willing to mount usually rare filibusters of a nominee. Hagel's nomination failed to get 60 votes when it came up in early February but ultimately went through.

A source said that a hold could be placed on Burwell in protest over budget delays. Other GOP sources said that there does not yet appear to be widespread opposition to Burwell, who served as deputy chief of staff for President Clinton.

Missteps in the upcoming meetings could change that.

The feisty—some Democrats say nasty—back and forth in the Senate Budget Committee Thursday between Ranking Member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Democratic staff may not bode well.

Sessions grilled staffers for Chairman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and accused them of misrepresenting her new budget. Staffers claim it reduces the deficit by $1.85 trillion but using a different baseline preferred by Sessions this falls to $300 billion.

The exchange was reminiscent of when Sessions grilled Obama’s nominee to be deputy budget director, Heather Higginbottom, then placed a secret hold on her nomination.

Higginbottom was ultimately confirmed in October 2011 after a six-month delay. She left OMB with little fanfare this year to join Secretary of State John Kerry as a counselor.

Another problem for Burwell could come from liberal Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Burwell most recently served as the head of the charitable Wal-mart Foundation.

Sanders is a vocal critic of what he sees as Wal-mart’s low wages and anti-union policies.

A source said that Sanders is still mulling over the nomination. A “no” vote by Sanders could stall the nomination in the Budget Committee if Republicans are all opposed to Burwell.

Last week Burwell met with Homeland Security Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.).

“I look forward to overseeing her confirmation hearing in the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and to working with my colleagues to see to her swift and fair confirmation,” he said after the meeting.