Lugar Tries to Break Logjam Over Broadcast Board Nominees

Posted June 12, 2010 at 2:55pm

Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) is calling for the swift confirmation of long-stalled nominees to the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

But standing in the way is Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who for months has blocked the nominations over objections with the board’s spending. To break the stalemate, Lugar sprayed criticism at both sides of the aisle this week by releasing a report maintaining that “both parties in the Senate [play] politics with Board nominations,” which on average languish for more than 470 days.

“International Broadcasting is a core component of our nation’s public diplomacy, and the Board of Governors is the key to effective broadcasting,” Lugar, ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said in a release. “Yet the Board has only been at full strength for six of the past 15 years. Much of that has been due to partisan bickering and obstruction. It is time to end that and confirm the Board, or it is perhaps time to create a new mechanism that will have greater Congressional support.”

Lugar’s strong words appeared to be aimed at Coburn, but so far the Oklahoman has not relented. Coburn did hint that he is ready to lift his holds if the Foreign Relations Committee conducts an oversight hearing on the board, and if he can participate.

“In order to ensure that the BBG is taking positive steps to improve in the areas of transparency and effectiveness, I respectfully ask that you convene a balanced oversight hearing before the end of the year to discuss the agencies under the BBG’s purview,” Coburn wrote in a letter to Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) Wednesday.

Coburn, who does not sit on the panel, conducted his own interviews with most of the eight nominees, which include Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) former chief of staff, Susan McCue, and former George W. Bush White House Press Secretary Dana Perino. While Senators have the right to meet with any nominee, most typically defer to the committee of jurisdiction for lower-level picks.

Lugar spokesman Andy Fisher said: “Sen. Lugar understands Sen. Coburn’s interest in meeting the current candidates. Board issues have been an ongoing problem on both sides of the aisle.”
The independent broadcasting board oversees the government’s international broadcasting, including Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Eight presidentially appointed members sit on the board, with the secretary of State serving as an ex officio member.

As of Friday, Kerry did not respond to Coburn’s letter. But Democratic leadership aides dismissed his request as a delay tactic to kill the nominations. And Regan Lachapelle, Reid’s spokeswoman, also hailed Lugar’s latest push to clear the pending names.

“This is welcome news from Senator Lugar who recognizes the important role of the Broadcasting Board of Governors in ensuring that America’s voice is heard throughout the world,” Lachapelle said. “It is our hope that he can convince his Republican colleagues to allow these nominations to move forward.”

McCue was first nominated to the board by President George W. Bush, but Senate Republicans refused to move her nomination to the floor despite repeated attempts by Reid.