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Senate Confirms Cameron Kerry at Commerce

The Senate on Thursday night confirmed Cameron Kerry as chief counsel in the Commerce Department, pushing through one more Obama administration nominee before adjourning for the weeklong Memorial Day break.

Kerry, Sen. John Kerry’s (D-Mass.) brother, was among a trio of executive branch nominees that Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had pledged to clear before the week’s end.

David Hayes, tapped to be deputy secretary of the Interior Department, was confirmed Wednesday evening, one week after Republicans successfully blocked his nomination. GOP Senators, led by Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Bob Bennett (Utah), protested Hayes’ nomination over concerns about Interior’s decision to cancel oil and gas leases in Western states.

The Senate also cleared the nomination of Craig Fugate for administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency earlier this week.

But a backlog of Obama nominations remains, including Robert Groves, a Michigan native tapped to lead the Census Bureau. The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved Groves on a voice vote earlier in the week, and his nomination is expected to clear the Senate without a problem.

But lurking in the wings is the controversial nomination of Dawn Johnsen, tapped to lead the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel. Johnsen has come under fire from some social conservatives, who have voiced concerns over her positions on abortion and the war on terror.

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) also has concerns about the nominee. And Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.), who recently joined the Democratic Conference after 29 years as a Republican Senator, has said he will vote against the nomination.

A spokeswoman for Reid said the Majority Leader is trying to reach an agreement to move Johnsen’s nomination to the floor.

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