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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Confirmation Fights

Daniel Libit at Politico has a summary today of five Senate confirmation controversies he thinks Team Obama will soon encounter.
I think one of these supposedly imminent “collisions”–Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman John Kerry versus Secretary of State-designee Hillary Clinton–is pretty much a contrived fiction. Sure, Kerry and Clinton have been rivals, and sure, they probably on a private level hold each other in minimum high regard. But Kerry’s been a staunch Obama ally, and there’s just no way he will try to throw a monkey wrench into the most important Obama foreign policy appointment. It’s not like the two Democratic titans have a whole lot of substantive disagreements, either.
That may also be the case with a second “collision” Libit discusses, Leon Panetta’s appointment as CIA director. Now that Diane Feinstein has made her point about not being consulted in advance, and secured an apology from none other than vice president-elect Joe Biden, I’d be surprised if she makes too many waves about fellow-Californian Panetta. Yes, they’ve had issues in the past, but again, as with Kerry and Clinton, these folks are politicians who are used to gritting their teeth and saying nice things about each other that may not be entirely sincere.
The three real “fireworks” confirmation hearings are likely to be those involving AG-designee Eric Holder, Energy Secretary-designee Steven Chu, and Treasury Secretary-designee Tim Geithner. As Libit notes, Chu’s problem is with Kentucky senator Jim Bunning, who will make a big deal out of Chu’s past comments about coal. But Chu’s actual confirmation isn’t in question. Geithner’s hearing is potentially a bigger concern because it is likely to serve as the lightning rod for Republican and perhaps even some Democratic unhappiness with the financial industry bailout, future regulatory plans, and the Obama stimulus proposal. Finance Committee ranking Republican Chuck Grassley of Iowa could make this something of a show trial.
But as has been the case all along, the only confirmation that could theoretically be in trouble is that of Holder. There’s no question that the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee Arlen Specter of PA, who faces a potential conservative primary challenge next year, will be loaded for bear, particularly in terms of Holder’s role in last-minute Clinton administration pardons. And there’s enough Democratic heartburn over that incident to provide some fodder for a fire, though probably not enough for a conflagration.

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