President Barack Obama pushed for quick Senate confirmation of his new picks for budget director, EPA administrator and Energy secretary — although the nature of the positions themselves all but ensures plenty of partisan fireworks on the Hill.
Obama’s three picks all have long résumés for their jobs — Office of Management and Budget nominee Sylvia Mathews Burwell served as deputy director in the 1990s under Jacob J. Lew and now runs the Walmart Foundation; EPA pick Gina McCarthy is currently assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation; and Energy pick Ernest Moniz, a prominent MIT physicist, served as an undersecretary under President Bill Clinton.
“I hope the Senate will confirm them as soon as possible because we’ve got a lot of work to do and we cannot afford delay,” Obama said in a brief ceremony Monday at the White House where he did not take questions.
But long résumés and lists of qualifications aren’t going to be enough to prevent trouble for Obama’s nominees on Capitol Hill. And there are no areas where the partisan divide is sharper than on the budget and the environment.
Burwell can expect a heavy dose of questions from the GOP on the unsustainability of the nation’s entitlements as well as alternatives to the sequester. McCarthy will face a barrage of questions over the EPA’s plans to regulate carbon emissions from coal power plants, fracking and numerous other issues. And Moniz will surely face questions over the president’s broader energy policy, including his support for nuclear power.
Obama’s energy picks, he said, would be “a great team” and would support investments in American energy and make sure “we are doing everything we can to combat climate change.”
That last bit has been quite controversial, of course. While a smattering of Republicans — Arizona Sen. John McCain, for one — have lately reaffirmed their concern about the issue, many others still either deny global-warming science or believe there is little or nothing the United States can or should do to stop it.
Obama also used his statement to warn again about the effect of the sequester, which he said is “already starting to cost us jobs.” Burwell, he said, would do whatever she could to blunt the effect, but, Obama said, the answer is to “keep on working to reduce our deficit in a balanced way.”
“I’m confident that we can get there if people of good will come together,” he said.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.