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Cox Could Win Panel’s Backing Soon

The waiting game may soon be over for Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Calif.): The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hopes to move his nomination to chair the Securities and Exchange Commission before the August recess.

Cox’s confirmation would set off a political chain reaction that would include his resignation from the House, the scheduling of a special election in California and a possible fight to replace him as Homeland Security chairman.

Banking Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) is planning to handle Cox’s nomination to chair the SEC at the same time he moves candidates to fill two other openings on the commission. The whole package will be ready to go as soon as the administration sends the necessary background information on the other two nominees to the Senate.

“As soon as the committee receives the paperwork, it is Sen. Shelby’s hope to consider Mr. Cox’s nomination with the other two vacancies before the August recess,” said Shelby spokeswoman Virginia Davis.

The Financial Times reported last week that the White House is prepared to accept the Senate Democrats’ choices — Annette Nazareth and Roel Campos — to fill the two SEC slots traditionally named by the party. The FT reported that Nazareth, a current SEC regulatory official, initially faced some opposition from business groups. But the White House has agreed to nominate her to succeed outgoing commissioner Harvey Goldschmid and to renominate Campos to his second term on the commission, the newspaper reported.

White House spokeswoman Erin Healy declined to say whether the administration planned to nominate Campos and Nazareth and would not speculate on when the administration would officially send the paperwork for which the Banking panel is waiting.

If the paperwork arrives in time for Banking to approve the three nominees, it is unclear whether there will be enough space on the Senate schedule to grant them a floor vote before the recess.

Once the Senate confirmation does happen and Cox resigns from the House, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) would have two weeks to call a special primary election, which by law would be held eight or nine weeks later. If no candidate from the all-party primary wins 50 percent of the vote, the top finishers from each party advance to a special general election eight weeks later.

Under that timetable, it does not seem possible that the Senate can confirm Cox quickly enough to ensure that the general election takes place on the same date, Nov. 8, as the state’s already-scheduled special election.

So far, the two most prominent candidates in the race for the heavily Republican seat are state Sen. John Campbell (R) and state Assemblywoman Marilyn Brewer (R).

In the House, the contest to take over the Homeland Security panel has also been stuck in neutral, as the handful of potential Cox successors wait for the opening to actually materialize.

Rep. Peter King (N.Y.), the sixth-most senior Republican on the panel, has been vocal about his desire for the position. More quietly, Rep. John Linder (R-Ga.) and Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Don Young (R-Alaska) have also made their interest known.

As the No. 2 Republican on the Homeland roster, Young is an obvious contender. But the Alaskan could draw some opposition within the GOP Conference, both because of his initial resistance to the creation of the Homeland Security panel and due to concerns about handing Young his third gavel (after Transportation and the Resources Committee) in a row.

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