Budget committee approves OMB nominee, but senator blocks confirmation

Kevin Dietsch/Landov

The Senate Budget Committee on Thursday approved President Obama's choice to run the Office of Management and Budget, but one senator then stepped in to block the nomination.

The panel approved Jack Lew to serve as head of OMB on a vote of 22 to 1. The lone holdout was Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who expressed concern about Lew's policy opinions on trade, Wall Street deregulation and Social Security.

But later Thursday, Lew's nomination encountered another hurdle when Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., announced she would block it until the Obama administration lifts its moratorium on deepwater oil and gas drilling.

"Although Mr. Lew clearly possesses the expertise necessary to serve as one of the president's most important economic advisors," Landrieu wrote in a letter to Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., "I found that he lacked sufficient concern for the host of economic challenges confronting the Gulf Coast. The fact that the most acute of these economic challenges, the moratorium, results from a direct (and reversible) federal action only serves to harden my stance on Mr. Lew's nomination. I cannot support further action on Mr. Lew's nomination to be a key economic advisor to the president until I am convinced that the president and his administration understand the detrimental impacts that the actual and de facto moratoria continue to have on the Gulf Coast."

The nomination of Lew, who led OMB during the Clinton administration from 1998 to 2001, now faces an uncertain future. Sanders' no vote aleady had complicated the process, making it unlikely that Democrats would win unanimous consent for the nominee, requiring a time-consuming roll call vote.

Earlier in the week, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which also must approve OMB nominations, unanimously approved Lew.

If confirmed, Lew said he would conduct an exhaustive review of every federal agency to trim waste and inefficiencies. He noted good management is paramount, especially in tough economic times, and pledged to build consensus among Democrats and Republicans.

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