This vote was on confirming Rep. Jim Nussle, R-Iowa, to the position of director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). OMB, a powerful agency, is essentially the White House’s liaison between, and overseer of, all federal agencies. OMB has the power to oversee issues of federal policy, regulatory affairs and legislative initiatives. It also sets in motion the president’s budgetary priorities and is responsible for issuing the president’s budget each year.
Nussle is a former Congressman who left Congress in 2006 to run for the governorship of Iowa; he was not successful. In August 2007, President Bush nominated him for the post of director of OMB.
Progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., had held up Nussle’s nomination until September as a means of protesting Bush’s fiscal policies. Sanders reserved particular disdain for an administration policy of threatening to veto any spending bill that exceeded the White House’s overall spending limits of $933 billion. Sanders was not the only one with reservations about Nussle’s nomination to the post, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D.
Sanders eventually removed the procedural roadblocks he had thrown up to allowing the Senate to move to a vote on confirming Nussle after the leadership agreed to give Sanders an hour of time on the Senate floor to hold forth on the ills of Bush’s fiscal policy that Nussle endorsed as head of the House Budget Committee when Republicans controlled Congress.
“Amazingly, childcare fees today are higher than college tuition at a 4-year public university in 42 States in this country. In other words, we have a major childcare crisis in America. The President needs an OMB Director to tell him and explain to him that you don't cut childcare when working families all over this country are desperately searching out affordable childcare. Will Mr. Nussle be doing that? I doubt that,” Sanders said.
But others came to Nussle’s defense, including Wayne Allard, R-Colo. Allard said as a member of Congress he had firsthand knowledge of Nussle’s budget expertise.
“I am pleased the President chose someone with such an extensive knowledge of the Federal budget process to succeed the very able Director, Rob Portman. I had the pleasure of serving under Congressman Nussle when he was chairman of the House Budget Committee. I came into the House the same time he did, so I have had an opportunity to work extensively with what I think is an outstanding individual,” Allard said.
Some Democrats defended Nussle for the post, however, feeling generally that the White House is entitled to its preferences when it comes to agencies that reside within the executive branch, as is the case with OMB. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., said as much when he spoke in support of Nussle’s nomination, though he made it a point to say he opposed the administration’s fiscal policies.
“As a former chairman of the House Budget Committee he is clearly qualified. As I have said in the past, the President is entitled to great deference when it comes to executive branch nominations, especially those for positions which are so close to the President himself,” Feingold said.
By a vote of 69-24, the Senate voted to confirm Nussle. Every Republican present voted to confirm Nussle. Of Democrats present, 23 voted for to confirm, and 23 voted against his confirmation. The Senate’s most progressive Democrats were in the contingent voting no, along with Sanders. The end result was that Nussle was confirmed as the next director of the Office of Management and Budget.