Waiting for confirmation
President Barack Obama has 90 nominees awaiting Senate confirmation, and Chicagoan Mary Smith has been waiting the longest of them all, according to White House data.
About 380 days ago, Obama nominated Smith, 47, a Clinton White House lawyer and a former partner with Schoeman, Updike & Kaufman in Chicago, to lead the attorney general's tax division. After Republicans sent the appointment back to the president, citing Smith's lack of tax-law experience, Obama nominated her again.
According to a congressional aide who declined to be named, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is blocking votes on any nominee opposed by all Republicans in committee, a category that applies to Smith. But the aide predicted Smith would eventually be confirmed in a deal packaging one or two Republican nominees for bipartisan boards with three or four Democratic nominees.
Smith has spent most of her career alternating between practicing law and working on political campaigns, having served as a lawyer in the Department of Justice's civil division; an aide on four presidential campaigns; senior counsel for Tyco International; and a member of Obama's transition team, where she reviewed the division she has been nominated to lead.
"The confirmation process, I think, is broken," said Abner Mikva, a retired federal judge and one of several Chicagoans who wrote Congress endorsing Smith. "I know this sounds partisan, but the Republicans are being ridiculous. She's very qualified. They ought to get out of the way."
In February, Smith joined the Department of Justice, anyway, as senior counsel to the assistant attorney general in charge of the civil division.