The Washington Post

Senate plans votes on White House nominees

FBI Director nominee James Comey is among those getting a vote this week. (Evan Vucci/AP)

The Senate will take off for the August break at the end of this week, but not before voting on a slew of White House nominees — one of which, President Obama’s pick to be the first permanent director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in seven years, is likely to stir up a pre-recess fight.

The chamber late Monday approved the nomination of James Comey to be the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations, and on Tuesday turns to the five nominees to the National Labor Relations Board — Harry Johnson, Philip Miscimarra, Mark Pearce, Kent Hirozawa, and Nancy Schiffer — whose approval was part of the deal negotiated by Republicans and Democrats to head off the “nuclear” option.

The chamber is expected to then take up the nomination of Samantha Power to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

And things might get a little testy when Senate leaders call a vote (expected on Wednesday or Thursday) on B. Todd Jones, the White House’s pick to lead ATF. The agency has gone without a permanent director for seven years.

Jones, the part-time acting director who is also the U.S. attorney for Minnesota, has faced heavy criticism from Republican senators, particularly Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). Grassley has raised questions about Jones’s handling of cases in Minnesota and his treatment of whistleblowers.

Making the nomination even more controversial is the still-lingering debate over “Fast and Furious,” the botched effort to track guns to drug traffickers. Jones wasn’t at the ATF during that operation, but it still cast a shadow over his confirmation hearings.

It wasn’t clear if his critics have the votes to block his nomination, and a Democratic aide called his prospects “iffy.”

The Senate could also approve any number of non-controversial nominees, but the action this week is likely to leave a number of them awaiting votes after the month-long August break.

Some of the folks still in the queue include Dan Baer to be the U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Catherine Russell to be ambassador at large for global women’s issues, and Jason Furman to be chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. (We hear Mel Watt, Obama’s pick to be the Director of Federal Housing Finance Agency, is likely to see a vote when the chamber reconvenes.)

As the song goes, see you in September.

Emily Heil is the co-author of the Reliable Source and previously helped pen the In the Loop column with Al Kamen.


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