The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee considered the nomination of HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan for the position of Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director on June 11. Later the same day, the Senate Committee on the Budget also held a hearing on Secretary Donovan’s nomination. President Barack Obama nominated Secretary Donovan to replace former OMB Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell, who was confirmed as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services on June 5.
No Senators expressed opposition to Secretary Donovan’s nomination. Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chair Thomas Carper (D-DE) started the hearing with a lighthearted tone, joking with the Secretary about his son’s role in a rock band. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA), daughter of former HUD Secretary Moon Landrieu said, “I have said before that he [Secretary Landrieu] was the best HUD Secretary but now I have met one better.”
Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) said there was “no doubt you will be approved.” He raised a Government Accountability Office report on duplicative government programs (see Memo, 3/4/11) and told the Secretary about his level of frustration with duplication and the associated costs. Secretary Donovan said he shared the Senator’s concerns, and that he promoted the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) to address some of the duplication within HUD. The Secretary said RAD goes “two-thirds of the way to consolidating older, frankly obsolete programs into one.” The Secretary added that he expects he will be able to do more with executive authority. Senator Coburn and the Secretary also agreed about the importance of establishing metrics to gauge program efficacy.
Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY) asked Secretary Donovan, who serves as the Chair of the Federal Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, if he discovered “any waste and inefficiencies that we would be correcting” during the Sandy recovery process. Secretary Donovan said that he will continue to work to streamline approval processes after a disaster to help expedite rebuilding, which is particularly needed in the environmental review process.
Former OMB Director Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) discussed the importance of uniform data standards to help the public easily see how the government utilizes tax dollars. The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, spearheaded by Senator Portman and Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) and signed into law on May 10, is aimed at facilitating the development of clear federal data standards. The Senator told Secretary Donovan that OMB should make implementation of the law a priority.
At the Senate Budget Committee hearing on the Donovan nomination to head OMB, Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) complimented Secretary Donovan for his work to strengthen the middle class and lead HUD through a complex process of stabilizing the housing market. She also praised Secretary Donovan for his bi-partisan work, specifically his work with other Budget Committee members Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Mike Crapo (R-ID) to have a strong and durable housing market, referring to the housing finance reform work in the Senate Banking Committee.
Chair Murray said that although the nation’s fiscal outlook has improved significantly in the near term, there is much work to be done and the nation still faces serious budget challenges. In 2016, She said, “…we are going to need to find a way, again, to roll back sequestration and replace it with responsible, balanced deficit reduction. I am confident we can get this done, because the Bipartisan Budget Act proved that neither side is willing to accept sequestration as the status quo. I believe we can reach an agreement that ensures we are making smart choices, and are investing in priorities that we know will pay off in a more economically competitive workforce and country.”
Committee Ranking Member Jeff Sessions (R-AL) said that even though Secretary Donovan’s nomination is somewhat unexpected, noting the former OMB director only held the position for 18 months, he would receive a fair hearing. Senator Sessions proceeded to express some concerns saying, “His time at HUD was Mr. Donovan’s only real experience managing a budget. But there is nothing in his track record there, or anywhere else, demonstrating a strong commitment to financial discipline, a particular skill in managing taxpayer dollars, or a passion for saving money. To my knowledge, Mr. Donovan has nothing in his background that would suggest that he has either a desire or a plan to confront our fast-rising entitlement program expenditures as they near insolvency.”
Senator Sessions went on to describe several reports from HUD’s Inspector General noting deficiencies in HUD’s management of certain programs. “One would want to see a sterling record of saving taxpayer dollars, finding new efficiencies, and streamlining government. But the record shows concerning failures,” Senator Sessions said.
In his testimony, Secretary Donovan said that the federal government’s budget represents not just numbers, but values. Secretary Donovan said he was committed to working with Congress on the budget, that he acknowledges the critical management side of OMB’s function, and that he will continue OMB’s practice of the regulatory look-back, which requires all federal agencies to reexamine their significant rules, and to streamline, reduce, improve, or eliminate them on the basis of that examination.
Watch an archived webcast of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs hearing at: http://1.usa.gov/1xiJrQp
Read Secretary Donovan’s testimony at: http://bit.ly/1ju0gOZ
Chair Murray’s statement is at: http://1.usa.gov/1y6As5k
Senator Sessions’ statement is at: http://1.usa.gov/1jt6MFB