Senate Republicans: Obama's Nominees Too Hard-Line

Monday, 28 Jan 2013 10:28 AM

By Melanie Gray

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President Barack Obama is rankling top Senate Republicans with what they see as his divisive second-term Cabinet nominations and agency appointments.

The GOP lawmakers, who play key roles in the confirmation process, contend the new team Obama is putting together is supremely suited to carry out his agenda, but are all hard-liners better at alienation than conciliation, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday.

Perhaps the best example of what Republicans are complaining about is the president's appointment Friday of longtime aide Denis McDonough to be chief of staff. McDonough has a reputation for being personable but has no strong ties to Republicans or their constituencies, which is a sharp contrast to William Daley, who served as Obama's top aide during a portion of his first term.

Daley's appointment was viewed as an overture at the time to Republicans, who liked Daley's corporate connections as a former commerce secretary under President Bill Clinton and his position as an executive committee member of JP Morgan Chase.

John Podesta, who was Clinton's last chief of staff, told the Journal that it's important for a president to surround himself in a second term with people he knows "can execute his strategy."

"Execution is everything in a second term," he said.

But former Ronald Reagan chief of staff Ken Duberstein told the Journal Obama might have an easier second term if he reaches out to Republicans with some of his nominations.

"He has to do it if he is to accomplish his broad agenda," he said. "You can't just do it by sticking your finger in people's eyes."

So far, Obama has made six nominations that require Senate approval and only one, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry for secretary of state, has wide support on both sides of the aisle.

Even former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Republican, is getting tough scrutiny from his old colleagues as the nominee for defense secretary, especially Arizona Sen. John McCain. Republicans are concerned about his past statements and positions regarding Israel and Iran, not to mention the fact that he endorsed Obama over McCain in the 2008 presidential campaign.

Republicans are also upset about the re-nomination of Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Some senators are still angry over Obama's recess appointment of Cordray to the post last year without Senate approval.

"I have misgivings about that nomination. It's very possible I won't be able to support him." said Nebraska GOP Sen. Mike Johanns.



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