Senate Panel Approves OMB Director Nomination

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan Susan Walsh/AP

A Senate panel on Wednesday approved the nomination of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan to be director of the Office of Management and Budget.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee reported out the nomination 9-1, a day after the Budget Committee okayed it. The nomination, which is one of the few Senate-confirmed executive jobs that has to go through multiple committees, now heads to the Senate floor. If confirmed, Donovan will replace Sylvia Burwell, who earlier this month was confirmed as Health and Human Services secretary.

Lawmakers praised Donovan for his intelligence and enthusiasm. “I am pleased with how smart he is, how hard he works, and the people he surrounds himself with,” said Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Tom Carper, D-Del.

But Republican senators, including John McCain of Arizona and committee Ranking Member Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, expressed some concerns about Donovan.

“I have a lot of admiration for Shaun Donovan,” Coburn said, but added he was not pleased with some of Donovan’s initial answers to written questions because they were cut and pasted from President Obama’s budget proposal, or identical to Burwell’s previous responses. “If you are not paying attention to the answers to this committee, you might not be paying attention when we have you before our committee to give us things. I’m really disappointed in this,” Coburn said. “This is a measure of management, how you answer questions to Congress. And if you are going to let the leg [legislative] shop paste answers that aren’t your answers to questions, what that says is, ‘Whatever.’ And that’s not the Shaun Donovan I know.”

Carper pointed out that Donovan has since resubmitted new answers to the ranking member.

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, a former OMB director, said Donovan’s “budget experience could be greater,” but added that “he is a bright guy.” Portman voted for Donovan, while Coburn and McCain abstained. Republican Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, the lone vote among those present against Donovan, said the nominee didn’t have much experience to be budget director and also took issue with Donovan over the Social Security trust fund.

During his confirmation hearing before the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Donovan promised to connect the “M” and the “B” in OMB by delivering results in the most cost-effective way possible. He also vowed to deliver on the management agenda outlined in Obama’s fiscal 2015 budget proposal, emphasizing the need to use data and metrics to ensure the smooth functioning of government.

When President Obama announced Donovan’s nomination in May, he called him “a great manager, a fiscally responsible leader, and somebody who knows how the decisions we make here in Washington affect people’s lives all across the country.”

San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro is on track to replace Donovan at HUD.

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