President Obama has made clear that one of his top priorities for the lame duck session is getting his budget director approved by the Senate, but an objection by a Democratic senator to the Interior Department's drilling policy continues to stymie the confirmation process for former Clinton Administration official Jack Lew, who enjoys wide support in the chamber.
The Administration is compiling its annual budget, customarily delivered to Congress in February, one that will face intense scrutiny with the House controlled by Republicans and the Senate more narrowly divided.
Back in September, Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., placed a hold on the Lew nomination in order to pressure the White House to lift its ban on deepwater drilling. At the time, the senator said, "I make no apologies for continuing this hold. This Administration has the entire exploration of oil and gas shut down in the Gulf of Mexico...I know the United States needs someone running point on this economic recovery, but I need someone running point on Gulf Coast economic recovery right now."
And though the Administration dif lift the ban, Landrieu spokesman Aaron Saunders told Fox on Monday, "There is nothing new to report at this time. Sen. Landrieu's hold on Mr. Lew's nomination remains in place. The Senator continues to be concerned about the pace at which shallow and deep water drilling permits are being issued."
Melissa Merz, spokeswoman for The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEM), told Fox Monday, "We are approving permits as efficiently as is safely possible."
It is unclear what kind of outreach might be occurring behind the scenes to remedy the problem. Neither Saunders nor Merz would say.
Lew was approved overwhelmingly by the Senate committees of jurisdiction and has extensive bipartisan support from the chamber with confirmation all but certain.