The Washington Post

Hochberg confirmed for Import-Export Bank; Perez clears hurdle for Labor post

The U.S. Senate easily confirmed Fred Hochberg to continue serving as head of the U.S. Export-Import Bank Wednesday, keeping to the tenets of a bipartisan agreement reached this week regarding the consideration of executive branch nominees.

Fred Hochberg. (Jeffrey MacMillan/Post)

Hochberg has led the bank since 2009 and is a former corporate executive, acting administrator at the Small Business Administration and top donor to President Obama's presidential campaigns. Obama renominated Hochberg in March to lead the bank for another four years.

Hochberg was confirmed 82 to 17, with 28 Republicans joining all 54 members of the Senate Democratic caucus to support the pick.

The Export-Import Bank is a self-funding agency that provides money to private companies seeking to export products overseas. Some congressional Republicans object to how the bank provides funding to companies, arguing that the money is a de facto federal subsidy.

In a much closer decision, Obama's pick to lead the Labor Department narrowly survived a key procedural vote. Senators voted 60 to 40 to end debate on the nomination of Thomas E. Perez to serve as the next labor secretary. He faces significant Republican opposition because of concerns with his tenure as a top Justice Department official. Under Senate rules, at least 60 votes are needed to end extended debate on a nominee.

Senate Democrats also hope to vote in the coming days to confirm Gina McCarthy as the new administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The votes Wednesday proceeded without the recent acrimony that had nearly upended Senate proceedings. After years of frustration with several stalled nominations, a large bloc of Democratic senators convinced Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) to threaten to change Senate rules so that executive branch nominees could be confirmed by a simple majority of 51 votes.

But an agreement reached early Tuesday averted the change. In exchange for ending the standoff, Obama withdrew two nominees to the National Labor Relations Board, who had been installed through recess appointment in January 2012. In return, Republicans agreed that Obama's new nominees would be confirmed, likely by the end of July.

Republicans had strongly objected when Obama installed the two NLRB nominees in January 2012 and have successfully challenged the appointments in federal court. Their most recently victory came Wednesday, when a third federal appeals court ruled that the recess appointments were unconstitutional.

In a divided opinion by three judges, the Richmond-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused to enforce two NLRB decisions, citing the recess appointments. Federal appeals courts in the District and Philadelphia have issued similar rulings and the U.S. Supreme Court plans to hear the D.C. case in its next term.

Follow Ed O'Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost

Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.

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