Confirmation hearings begin for Obama’s next budget chief

By Andrew Hedlund - MEDILL  |  April 9, 2013 at 5:19 PM
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WASHINGTON, April 9 -- President Barack Obama’s nominee to be his next budget chief, Sylvia Burwell, faced her first round of confirmation hearings Tuesday, with senators from both parties expressing confidence in her abilities to lead during a time of high deficits and clashes over spending and taxes.

If confirmed by the Senate, Burwell will serve as the next director of the Office of Management and Budget. She would succeed the agency’s acting director, Jeffrey Zients.

An aide to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee said a vote on Burwell’s nomination is expected in the next few weeks.

Burwell, who is now the president of the Walmart Foundation and served in policy roles in President Bill Clinton’s administration, earned praise from both Republicans and Democrats.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called her an “incredibly well-qualified nominee,” while Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., called her the “right woman for the job.”

The office Burwell would lead helps the president set spending priorities and organizes the annual budget proposal to Congress. Obama’s fiscal year 2014 budget will be delivered to Capitol Hill on Wednesday.

When concluding his questioning, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said, “I believe you will be our next OMB director.”

Many of the questions Burwell faced concerned regulatory burdens. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., expressed concern about expensive regulations that yield few results, particularly for small businesses.

“The issues of how different actions of government affect small business are important,” Burwell said.

The nominee’s approach to deficit reduction also arose as an important topic.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., asked whether she preferred focusing solely on spending or whether a “balanced approach” should be taken, meaning utilizing both spending cuts and more tax revenue.

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