Senate Confirms Three Prominent GOPers to Obama Posts

Posted August 7, 2009 at 1:17pm

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) pushed through a bloc of Obama administration nominees Friday, including former Rep. Jim Leach (R-Iowa) to lead the National Endowment for the Humanities and Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. (R) as ambassador to China.

Ten judicial nominees were also cleared, including five U.S. attorneys and one U.S. marshal. Still, 10 more nominations are pending, including three judicial picks and Dawn Johnsen, the controversial nominee to lead the Office of Legal Counsel.

“The Senate has finally broken through the logjam that has stalled the confirmation of several important nominations considered by the Judiciary Committee,— Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said in a statement. “The confirmation of President Obama’s first nominees to these positions is long overdue.—

Former Rep. Anne Northup (R-Ky.), who lost re-election in 2006, was also approved as a commissioner to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Deputy secretary nominees at various agencies and several ambassadors were also approved.

Not confirmed Friday was Rep. John McHugh (R-N.Y.), who President Barack Obama tapped to be secretary of Army. The Armed Services Committee unanimously approved McHugh’s nomination on Tuesday. McHugh is the subject of a hold by Kansas GOP Sens. Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts, who want assurances from Obama that detainees at the Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, prison will not be transferred to Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.

Reid also filed a cloture motion on the nomination of Cass Sunstein, who was approved May 20 by the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to head up the Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

Republicans Sens. John Cornyn (Texas) and Saxby Chambliss (Ga.) raised objections based on previous remarks from Sunstein on animal rights, which suggested that Sunstein posed a threat to the agricultural industry.

The chamber will meet Monday for a pro forma session in order to protect the pending list of nominations from being sent back to the White House. No nomination can linger in the Senate for more than 30 calendar days. With the pro forma session, the Senate will stand in recess just 29 days until returning on Sept. 8.