Sylvia M. Burwell was confirmed April 24 to lead the Office of Management and Budget. (Thomas Brown / Federal Times)
Sylvia Burwell won unanimous Senate confirmation Wednesday to be the next director of the Office of Management and Budget.
Burwell will replace Jeff Zients, an OMB deputy director who has led the agency on an acting basis since January 2012 when Jack Lew left to become White House chief of staff and, more recently, Treasury secretary.
President Obama nominated Burwell, most recently president of the Walmart Foundation, in March to head the budget office. This will be her second tour at OMB, where she served as a deputy director in the Clinton administration from 1998 to 2001. As the agency’s head, she will now likely assume a lead role in negotiations over Obama’s fiscal 2014 budget request submitted two weeks ago, as well as in the broader drama over tax and spending policy that has dominated Washington for the last two years.
Burwell will also oversee agency rule-making and the administration’s efforts to improve government performance.
Democrats cited Burwell’s experience at OMB — which coincided with the last time the federal budget was in balance — as evidence that she is well-suited for the job.
“During her time in Washington in the 90s, she reached across the aisle and negotiated the balanced and fair budgets with Republicans in Congress. She knows that working to find common ground is the key to solving our fiscal challenges,” Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray, D-Wash., said before Wednesday’s vote.
The committee’s top Republican, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, called Burwell “smart” and “able,” but questioned whether she could stand up to agencies’ pressure for more spending.
“They want to do all kinds of things, particularly in this administration, and sometimes you’ve got to say, ‘We don’t have the money,’ ” Sessions said.