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Hold Placed on Nussle Nomination

Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said Tuesday that at least one Senator — and possibly more — has placed a “hold” on the nomination of former Rep. Jim Nussle (R-Iowa) to be director of the White House’s Office of Management and Budget.

“There are clearly some who are hardened over this issue,” said Conrad, who said he did not know which Senator or Senators had placed the anonymous hold.

A hold is a process by which a Senator or group of Members objects to the consideration of a bill or nominee. It often is interpreted as a signal that someone will attempt to filibuster the target of the hold.

Conrad noted that at least “five Senators came to me, as I said before, and expressed strong reservations about this nomination.” Indeed, the day the White House announced the former House Budget chairman’s nomination to head the OMB, Conrad cast doubt on whether he would be able to get enough votes to be confirmed.

“There are clearly problems with his nomination,” Conrad reiterated Tuesday.

Nussle — who would replace outgoing OMB Director Rob Portman, also a former GOP House Member — is known as a bare-knuckles, partisan brawler, and President Bush’s threats to veto most or all of the 12 upcoming fiscal 2008 spending bills has made the Democratic-led Congress even more leery of Nussle heading up the office charged with holding the administration’s line on spending.

While it is likely a Democrat who has placed the hold, Conrad said he did not know whether the anonymous Senator was a Democrat or Republican.

Conrad said he talked to Nussle in late June and “made suggestions as to how he might address” the issues that Senators have with him.

Many Democrats have been pressing the White House to soften their veto stance in advance of Nussle’s confirmation and have been pressing Nussle in particular to agree to be flexible on White House demands that Democrats adhere to a spending limit $23 billion less than the one they set in their budget resolution earlier this year.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he will meet with Nussle today and will discuss the veto issue with him.

“I did not serve with him in the House. If I did, I certainly don’t remember it. I don’t remember the sack over the head,” said Reid, referencing a famous instance in which Nussle gave a speech on the House floor with a brown paper bag over his head to make a point about the House banking scandal of the early 1990s.

Still, Reid said, “I want to make sure he gets a fair hearing here.”

Conrad repeatedly has said he would like to hold a hearing on Nussle’s nomination this month. However, he noted Tuesday that he and Senate Budget ranking member Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) had to ask the White House for more information on Nussle because his initial paperwork was incomplete.

Conrad said asking for more information on a nominee was “not unusual.”

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