Nason Nomination to FHWA Advances in Senate

February 8, 2019

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee this week voted to recommend that the Senate confirm Nicole Nason to be Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration.

The panel approved the Nason nomination by voice vote, after expressions of support by chairman John Barrasso (R-WY) and ranking minority member Tom Carper (D-DE).

By the standards of recent Senate practice, the Nason nomination is moving through Congress like lightning. Her nomination, which came as a bit of a surprise, was only announced by the White House on January 3 and sent to the Senate the same day. Her hearing was held on January 29 (transcript here).

The bipartisan support for the nomination raises hopes that Nason can escape the typical Senate logjam and get the unanimous consent necessary to schedule a vote. However, it that falls apart (and Senators have been known to block votes on nominees for reasons entirely unrelated to the nominee or even to the Department in which they will work), the Senate Rules and Administration Committee has scheduled a markup next week for S. Res. 50, a resolution that would significantly cut down the amount of time it takes to move a nomination through the Senate by anything less than unanimous consent.

At present, once a majority of the Senate votes to invoke cloture on a nomination, there is still 30 hours of post-cloture debate. This has meant that Majority Leader McConnell has been hesitant to spend that 30 hours on nominees below the rank of Deputy Secretary – that time can be better spent confirming judges who will serve for life.

Under S. Res. 50, the amount of post-cloture debate time on sub-Cabinet nominees at departments, and of district judges, would be cut from 30 hours down to just 2 hours. Post-cloture debate time on Cabinet nominees, other Executive Schedule Level I agency heads, appeals court judges, Supreme Court justices, and members of certain regulatory commissions would continue to have 30 hours post-cloture debate time.

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