Senate committee delays vote on FEC nominees

Selections for elections watchdog put on back-burner as Obama, Congress focus on Syria

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President Barack Obama's two nominees to the Federal Election Commission must wait a little longer for the Senate Rules and Administration Committee to vote on their nominations.

Only Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., appeared at this morning's scheduled meeting, announcing that the committee had failed to reach a quorum, and therefore, couldn't conduct a vote.

But Schumer, the committee's chairman, added during brief remarks that a vote on the FEC nominees — Democrat Ann Ravel and Republican Lee Goodman — could come as "early as tomorrow."

Rules Committee staff explained that senators could conduct a vote on Goodman and Ravel without scheduling another formal meeting, instead gathering together during a break in action when the full Senate meets in session. The Rules Committee's recommendation would be forwarded to the full Senate, which would conduct a final appointment vote.

Senators are largely preoccupied today with developments regarding Syria. Obama is scheduled to visit Capitol Hill today and meet personally with many senators.

Campaign finance reformer advocates have repeatedly criticized the election agency for gridlock under Obama's watch, and many hope the new blood on the commission will bolster its willingness to act. In July, the Rules Committee conducted a largely uneventful confirmation hearing for Ravel and Goodman.

For her part, Ravel has been serving as the chairwoman of the California Fair Political Practices Commission since 2011, when she was appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat.

She has won praise from watchdogs for her aggressive fight to unveil the donors who steered $11 million into ballot measures in the state through a series of nonprofit organizations — transactions her office called the biggest case of "campaign money laundering in California history."

Meanwhile, Goodman is an attorney at law firm LeClairRyan. In court, he has argued that the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling should allow the existing ban on direct corporate contributions to federal candidates to be overturned. He was also a member of the Bush-Cheney recount team in 2000.

The U.S. Senate must confirm Obama's two nominees, who have been nominated at a time when all five current FEC commissioners are serving despite their terms having expired. The commission's sixth seat is currently vacant, following the resignation of Democrat Cynthia Bauerly in February.

Ravel has been nominated to replace Bauerly, while Goodman would replace current FEC Vice Chairman Don McGahn, a Republican.