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Nomination Battles Are Flourishing

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call
Hagel’s nomination fight has been one of the most contentious in recent memory.

Hagel is still likely to be confirmed, but with the recent media focus on national security policy and programs such as Obama’s drone program, there is sure to be more airing of grievances. If a GOP senator attempts to filibuster Hagel’s nomination, Democrats may need only five Republican votes to beat it back. That appears doable, even if those five turn around and vote against Hagel’s actual confirmation.

Department of Treasury: Jacob J. Lew

In a widely anticipated move, Obama selected Lew — his most recent chief of staff — to replace Timothy F. Geithner as Treasury secretary. Lew is a Washington veteran, having served as a key adviser and director of Office of Management and Budget under President Bill Clinton, a role he later reprised for Obama. In addition, he did a stint at the State Department during his time with the Obama administration.

Lew hasn’t always had an easy relationship with Capitol Hill lawmakers, but then again, he was largely responsible for Obama’s budget portfolio at an especially contentious time, with Congress lurching from one self-inflicted shutdown crisis to another. Scheduling Lew’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee has taken a good bit of time as lawmakers are meeting with him personally and reviewing his finances.

Senate Budget ranking member Jeff Sessions has led the charge against Lew, hinting at a potential filibuster. The Alabama Republican has criticized Lew for what the senator has called misleading testimony regarding past administration budget submissions. Earlier this week, Sessions sought to use Lew’s nomination as leverage to extract a Medicare spending plan from the administration.

Sessions won’t be voting at the committee level. But top Republicans on the Finance Committee, such as Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, have not yet said whether they can support Lew’s nomination.

Department of the Interior: Sally Jewell

Obama on Wednesday picked Jewell, CEO of outdoor sporting goods company REI, to replace Ken Salazar as his next secretary of the Interior. Jewell, a former banking executive, is the first woman selected to serve in Obama’s second-term Cabinet. The administration had taken some heat for not having a more diverse core of Cabinet officials and advisers to the president.

Obama’s pick of Jewell was largely applauded by environmental groups, and her private sector background ultimately could make her appealing to Republicans. After Jewell’s selection Wednesday, lawmakers on relevant panels to the Interior released lukewarm statements on the pick, largely because Jewell is an unknown commodity inside the Beltway.

“The livelihoods of Americans living and working in the West rely on maintaining a real balance between conservation and economic opportunity,” said Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee ranking member. “I look forward to hearing about the qualifications Ms. Jewell has that make her a suitable candidate to run such an important agency, and how she plans to restore balance to the Interior Department.”

Central Intelligence Agency: John O. Brennan

Brennan’s confirmation hearing could be just as testy as Hagel’s, especially with the recent leak of an administration white paper on drone strikes that provided a legal basis for carrying out fatal drone strikes against U.S. citizens who are suspected of terrorism.

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