Dems Question Bush's State Dept. Nominee

Democratic senators Tuesday questioned whether President Bush's nominee to lead the State Department refugee program is qualified for the job.

Bush has nominated Ellen Sauerbrey (search), who twice lost bids for Maryland governor, to be assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration. If confirmed, she would manage a nearly $1 billion budget for refugee crises overseas.

"I don't think we see the requisite experience that we've seen in other nominees" for the job, said Sen. Barbara Boxer (search), D-Calif., at Sauerbrey's confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

In the wake of ousted disaster relief chief Michael Brown (search), Democrats especially have complained that some of Bush's nominations carry the whiff of cronyism because they lack experience in the jobs for which they are nominated. Brown resigned after the government failed to act quickly to the disaster wrought on the Gulf Coast by Hurricane Katrina.

Despite the criticism, Sauerbrey is expected to win Senate confirmation.

Sauerbrey told the committee that she possesses the management, budgetary and humanitarian experience of three decades of public service in Maryland Republican politics and, currently, as U.S. envoy on women's issues to the United Nations.

"I think these are the skills that one needs along with the humanitarian heart to get the job done, to protect the most vulnerable people that this bureau is charged with protecting," Sauerbrey, 68, told the panel.