The Senate Budget Committee, Tuesday, voted to recommend Obama’s nominee for Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget to the full Senate. The 11-10 vote was along party lines, with Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont absent and Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio abstaining.
When President Obama nominated Heather Higginbottom to the number-two position at OMB, Republicans on the committee viewed it as a sign the president is not serious about cutting spending. Put simply, Republican’s interpreted the nomination of someone with no budget experience as a pure political move.
But even Democrats on the committee revealed a possible case of nerves surrounding the confirmation when the originally-scheduled vote last week was suddenly called off at the last minute. A spokesperson for the majority’s office at the Budget Committee told The Daily Caller that the switch was due to the fact that a floor vote had been canceled.
A Republican Senate source, however, told TheDC that “you don’t need floor activity to hold a committee vote.”
And now, Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Ranking Member of the Budget Committee, is calling on the president to withdraw Higginbottom’s nomination. “President Obama has nominated Ms. Higginbottom for a critical position at a critical agency at a critical time,” said Sessions after the vote.
“But Ms. Higginbottom lacks and formal budget training or experience, a fact that became all too clear during her confirmation hearings,” Sessions added. “I must oppose this nomination and renew my call for the president to stop obstructing the efforts to prevent our looming debt crisis and start leading—beginning with the withdrawal of Ms. Higginbottom and the appointment of a qualified nominee.”
Higginbottom has spent a career in Democratic politics and policy. She spent eight years on Capitol Hill as a staffer fro Democratic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, was political director for Obama’s presidential campaign, and is currently deputy director of the White s House’s Domestic Policy Council.
During a hearing with the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Higginbottom even admitted to her lack of experience during a line of questioning from Republican Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts.
“You’ll be the number two,” said Brown. “I mean, if he’s [Director Lew] not there, you’ll be number one, potentially. And in that respect, I would presume you would be dealing with accounting and budgeting, obviously, problems within OMB. But I guess I’m asking, do you have any accounting or budgetary experience aside from dealing in policy matters?
“I’m not an accountant,” Higginbottom replied. “But the president’s budget is an articulation of his policy agenda.”
In another hearing on her nomination, Higginbottom failed to defend the president’s proposed budget for FY 2012, against questions about administration claims that it would not add to the national debt. “The interest costs on what we’re borrowing add to the debt,” she admitted.
Despite Republican concerns, however, Higginbottom could be confirmed by the Senate and go on to be the second most powerful person when it comes to the budget and the country’s fiscal affairs.