The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The one Obama nominee that Republicans can get behind

( <a href="">farber</a> )

With the Senate now belonging to Republicans, the GOP will have more power than ever to block President Obama's political appointees in the next Congress. Conservatives have already shown themselves eager to delay judicial appointments and other nominees to try to force concessions from the White House on legislation. Now that problem is poised to become even worse. As the Atlantic's David Graham put it, "It's easy to imagine that a GOP-controlled Senate would be a place for Obama appointments to go to die."

But here's one nominee who will probably escape that fate: Michelle Lee, Obama's pick to head up the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

"Who cares about the patent office?" you ask. Well, a lot of people — from Google to Tesla to pharma to trial lawyers. And, by the way, Republicans and Democrats, too. Patent reformers argue the current system gives some companies too much power to file sham infringement lawsuits. The victims often settle to avoid going to court — and get fleeced out of thousands of dollars or more in the process. All that money flows back to the "patent trolls" that filed the suits in the first place. On Thursday, the Federal Trade Commission gave one notorious troll a slap on the wrist for mailing frivolous and misleading demand letters.

Senate lawmakers very nearly sealed a deal this year on patent reform before an 11th-hour intervention by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) thwarted the whole thing. A version of the legislation had already passed the House, and Obama had shown support for it. It's clear there's bipartisan appetite for changing the country's patent system.

Lee, deputy director of the patent office, was Google's first head of patent strategy and is a supporter of patent litigation reform. That puts her on the same side as many of the Republicans who worked on this year's patent bills. Yes, Lee will be a Democratic nominee. But she'll also be an ally to key Republicans, including Sens. Charles Grassley (Iowa) and John Cornyn (Tex.), both of whom serve on the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee.

"I expect her nomination will be unaffected by Tuesday's results," said Dana Rao, a senior official at Adobe.