September 4, 2007 / 10:10 PM / in 12 years

Senate confirms Jim Nussle as budget chief

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Senate on Tuesday confirmed President George W. Bush’s choice of former Republican congressman Jim Nussle of Iowa as his new budget director.

Former Iowa Rep. Jim Nussle (L) speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington next to George W. Bush June 19, 2007. The Senate on Tuesday confirmed President George W. Bush's choice of former Republican congressman Jim Nussle of Iowa as his new budget director.REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

By a vote of 69-24, the Senate approved Nussle to replace Rob Portman as the director of the Office of Management and Budget.

In winning confirmation, Nussle overcame opposition from some Democrats who thought the ex-lawmaker was too partisan and combative to deal effectively with the deep divisions between Congress and the White House over budget and spending priorities.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat, said he was voting against Nussle’s confirmation because he feared Republicans could portray a yes vote “as a sign of support for the president’s failed fiscal policy,” which he said has resulted in “an explosion in federal debt.”

Nussle, a former chairman of the House Budget Committee, left Congress last year to run, unsuccessfully, for governor of Iowa.

As budget director, Nussle, 47, will be a point man for the White House in negotiations with the Democratic-controlled Congress on fiscal 2008 spending bills.

Bush has threatened to veto many of the 12 bills, saying they spend too much. Democrats counter that they want to bring spending for domestic social programs up-to-date after six years of Republican neglect.

Negotiations between the White House and congressional Democrats are expected to intensify in coming weeks as neither wants to preside over government shutdowns if agencies run out of money after the October 1 start of the new fiscal year.

Besides appropriations bills, Nussle will play a main role in writing Bush’s fiscal 2009 budget proposal, which will probably be presented to Congress in late January or early February.

Portman, a former congressman from Ohio, left the budget office last month to return to his home state, where he might consider a run for governor in 2010.

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