OMB Director Portman resigns

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Rob Portman, the Office of Management and Budget’s director, resigned today.

White House officials confirmed Portman’s decision and that Jim Nussle, a former Republican congressman from Iowa and chairman of the House Budget Committee, will replace him, said Sean Kevelighan, OMB spokesman.

“The director made a personal decision after 14 years of commuting from Ohio to Washington, D.C., that he is going to take time and move back to Ohio and dedicate time to his wife and three teenage children,” Kevelighan said. Nussle “has important relationships with members of Congress and a strong familiarity with the budget process to see the president through the remainder of his time in office.”

Portman was OMB director for about a year. He will leave in August, Kevelighan said.

Nussle resigned from Congress to run for governor of Iowa in 2006. He lost to Chet Culver.

Stan Collender, a managing director at Qorvis Communications, said he was surprised by Portman’s decision and his timing.

“Portman was taking the point on the administration’s war on appropriations. Why replace him just as the war was about to get started?” Collender said in an e-mail message. “Nussle probably won’t be confirmed until September, so there could be no budget director in place when most of the fiscal 2008 appropriations will be considered. Given that there’s no one else in the administration with any credibility on the budget or economy, this could put a big crimp in the war on appropriations.”

Kevelighan, however, said Portman’s timing was appropriate.

“He wanted to equip his successor with all the knowledge of the 2009 budget,” he said. “Mr. Nussle is a very logical choice and the president is excited about him. Director Portman wanted to be sure the ideal nominee was in place before he made his resignation official.”

The Senate must confirm Nussle. Kevelighan said it took five weeks for the Senate to confirm the previous two directors.

Collender added that Nussle will have his work cut out for him because he is not as well connected to the current House leadership as Portman is.

“He will have to establish and build his own credibility before he can fully lead the administration’s efforts on the budget,” Collender said.

During Portman’s time at OMB, he was unable to get Congress to pass a 2007 budget for most agencies. He did, however, oversee the ongoing building of a federal spending database and the establishment of a database to track earmarks in spending bills.

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