The Obama Administration has had trouble selecting a candidate to fill the top job at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), with the post vacant since the president took office. So the White House had to breathe a small sigh of relief Monday when its third nominee, John Pistole, received quick praise from the top Republican on the committee that will first judge his fate.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-ME, a key moderate in a Senate where Democrats are now one vote short of a filibuster-proof majority, said Monday, "I have known John, who currently is the Deputy Director of the FBI, for many years. Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, he has been on the forefront of our nation’s fight against terrorism."
Senators are likely very familiar with this nominee. Pistole has been responsible for the member briefings, along with members of the Intelligence Community, on both the Christmas Day bomber and the recent Time Square car bomb attempt.
But Collins made no commitment on her vote, adding, "While I will withhold my final judgment on this nomination until the Committee's full examination and vetting processes are completed, I am pleased that the President has chosen an individual with such strong law enforcement experience."
A number of Obama nominees have been tripped up by that rather thorough vetting process, so it is not unusual that Collins won't commit now.
Steadfast GOP objections to the Administration's first nominee, former Los Angeles airport police executive Errol Southers, for his stance on unionizing screeners and for what appeared to be misstatements to Congress about an incident two decades ago involving a background check of the boyfriend of his ex-wife forced his withdrawal.
Nominee #2, retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert Harding, a military and intelligence officer, hit a GOP wall, as well.
In the face of questions about his connections to a defense contractor, Harding abruptly withdrew, telling the White House in a late evening statement, "Distractions caused by my work as a defense contractor would not be good for this Administration nor the Department of Homeland Security."
The political environment is rough right now, so praise by Collins, who also voiced support for both Southers (after a private briefing by the Admin on the boyfriend incident) and Harding, by no means represents a done deal for this new nominee, but the instant, positive response has to be reason for relief at the White House.