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Trump budget nominee gets first Senate committee nod

Acting OMB director has one more committee hurdle to clear before his nomination is ready for the floor; party-line votes expected

Acting Office of Management and Budget Director Russell Vought powers up the production belt to produce copies of President Donald Trump’s fiscal 2021 budget at the Government Publishing Office on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020.
Acting Office of Management and Budget Director Russell Vought powers up the production belt to produce copies of President Donald Trump’s fiscal 2021 budget at the Government Publishing Office on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Russell Vought, the acting Office of Management and Budget Director nominated to assume the position officially, cleared the first hurdle to confirmation with a 7-4 vote in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday.

The Senate Budget Committee, which shares jurisdiction over the OMB director nomination, has scheduled a vote for Thursday.

All of the Homeland Security panel’s Republicans voted in favor of Vought, though Rand Paul, R-Ky., voted by proxy which doesn’t count when it comes to nominations.

All Democrats on the committee voted ‘no,’ though Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Kamala Harris of California voted by proxy.

When Vought appeared before the Homeland Security Committee for a confirmation hearing on June 2, the biggest question mark was whether Mitt Romney, R-Utah, would oppose him, potentially scuttling the nomination.

Romney was the one GOP senator to vote to convict President Donald Trump on one article of impeachment earlier this year. The impeachment charges grew from OMB’s temporary withholding of aid to Ukraine while Vought was serving as acting director. Romney, however, was supportive of Vought during the hearing.

Democrats on the Homeland Security Committee were restrained in their criticism of Vought during the hearing, but they voted against his confirmation Wednesday.

The Senate Budget hearing on June 3 was a different story. There, Democrats denounced Vought, with Patty Murray, D-Wash., charging he was “unfit and unqualified” to lead OMB because the White House agency withheld aid to Ukraine in what she said was an illegal act.

Republicans on the narrowly divided panel generally praised Vought. Patrick J. Toomey, R-Pa., gave Vought credit for Trump administration deregulatory initiatives, which he said played a part in strong economic growth over the past three years.

Republicans have an 11-10 majority on the Budget Committee, meaning Vought needs all Republicans to support him if all Democrats oppose him. Another party-line vote resulting in reporting Vought to the Senate appears likely in the Budget Committee.

Vought appears likely to win confirmation in the Senate, where Republicans have a 53-47 margin. When he was confirmed as deputy director in early 2018, the GOP had two fewer seats and Vice President Mike Pence was needed to break tie to confirm his former staffer when he was a House GOP lawmaker from Indiana. That 2018 vote was strictly along party lines, with two Republicans absent on that day.

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