Obama budget nominee receives praise from Senate GOP at hearing

Sylvia Burwell, President Obama’s nominee to be his next budget director, faced little resistance from Senate Republicans during the first of her two confirmation hearings Tuesday.

The GOP has been lambasting Obama this week as he delivers a budget on Wednesday that will not balance, two months late. But Republicans on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee signaled that the nominee, a former Clinton administration official and head of the Wal-Mart Foundation, likely faces an easy confirmation.

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“There is no question that you are highly qualified,” ranking member Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who has made wasteful spending a signature issue, praised Burwell as an “incredibly well-qualified nominee.”

“There must be some character flaw that she wants the job,” he quipped. “This is an excellent choice.”

“I believe you will be the next budget director,” added Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio).

Burwell could face tougher grilling at the Senate Budget Committee, where Republicans are led by the fiery Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), on Wednesday, but as it stands, she appears to have the 60 votes needed to overcome any potential filibuster on the floor.

How long the honeymoon lasts remains to be seen.

Jack Lew, now the secretary of the treasury, was praised when he became Obama’s budget director based on his history of balancing budgets in the Clinton administration.

By the end of his tenure at the budget office, Lew was on the receiving end of harsh rhetoric by Republicans who built their 2012 campaigns on the idea that Obama is fiscally irresponsible.

Burwell, who was a deputy budget director for Clinton, said she hopes to build a solid dialogue with the GOP based on the quiet meetings she has already had.

“There is no question the road will be difficult … I am confident we can come together on a comprehensive plan,” she said.