Crowell & Moring

After last week’s maneuverings by Republicans, President Obama’s nominations for his second term Cabinet have had a markedly better week.

On Thursday, Ernest Moniz was approved by a unanimous Senate vote (97-0) to serve as the new Secretary of Energy.  He replaces Steven Chu who resigned in February.  Secretary Moniz, a professor at MIT, was an undersecretary at the Department of Energy under President Clinton but both Republicans and Democrats expressed confidence in him.

Also on Thursday, the latest round in the saga that is Gina McCarthy’s nomination to be the EPA Administrator took place.  Following last week’s Republican boycott of the EPW Committee hearing scheduled to vote on Ms. McCarthy’s nomination, the Committee met and voted along party lines, 10-8, to advance her nomination to the full Senate.  Ms. McCarthy, however, may continue to face roadblocks as Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo) currently has a hold on her nomination, which must be lifted prior to any floor votes.

The other contentious nomination, that of Tom Perez as Labor Secretary, also took a step forward on Thursday.  The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (“HELP”) Committee voted along party lines, 12-10, to move his nomination through to the full Senate.  Similar to Ms. McCarthy, he may encounter some resistance and possibly even a filibuster that would require 60 votes from the full Senate to move his nomination forward.

President Obama recently made his selections to fill out his second term Cabinet by nominating Penny Pritzker to be his Secretary of Commerce and Michael Froman to be the U.S. Trade Representative.  While Froman, a White House aide enmeshed in Obama’s trade agenda, is not expected to have a contentious nomination, the same cannot be said for Pritzker.  Ms. Pritzker, a Chicago-based businesswoman who was involved in fundraising for Obama’s 2008 election, is worth approximately $1.85 billion.  Her family owns numerous businesses, including Hyatt Hotels.  But the previous failure of a bank partially owned by the Pritzker family and the rocky relationship Hyatt has had with unions, as well as her previous offshore investments, may lead to opposition and pointed questions from both the right and the left.