GOP opposition spells trouble for OMB nominee

While Congress wages multiple budget and spending fights, the Senate Budget Committee on Tuesday reported out the nomination of Heather Higginbottom for deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget on a party-line 11-10 vote that spells trouble for her confirmation chances.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which shares jurisdiction over the nomination, last month also approved the nomination on a party-line vote, 6-4.

Republicans, particularly Senate Budget ranking member Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., have repeatedly faulted Higginbotton's lack of business and accounting experience, and linked her to their criticisms of President Obama's budget proposals. She is a former legislative director for Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, a former OMB director, was the only GOP senator who voted in committee who did not to oppose Higginbottom. Portman voted "pass," which means the vote does not count.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., did not vote. If Portman had voted "no," Budget Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., would have had to track down Sanders to provide the vote needed to advance the nomination.

But with Sessions and other Republicans likely to force a cloture vote on the nomination, Higginbottom might need backing from all 53 Senate Democrats and seven Republicans to win confirmation.

With all Republicans, including Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs ranking member Susan Collins, R-Maine, opposed, that looks unlikely. In a statement on Tuesday, Sessions suggested that the administration should withdraw the nomination due to the firm GOP opposition.

"The number of votes against the nominee today demonstrates the depth of concern," Sessions said. "Now is clearly not the time to place a former campaign adviser with no budget experience into a role whose chief responsibilities include enforcing agency spending discipline and sound accounting principles."

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