FEC nominees win Rules Committee endorsement

Full Senate to now consider Obama picks Lee Goodman, Ann Ravel

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President Barack Obama's two nominees to the Federal Election Commission — an agency rife with ideological discord and often gridlocked on key issues before it — today won unanimous approval from the Senate Rules and Administration Committee.

The nominations of Republican Lee E. Goodman and Democrat Ann Ravel now move to the full Senate, which must confirm Goodman and Ravel before they're appointed to the FEC. The Rules Committee had originally scheduled a nomination vote for Sept. 10 but delayed it because it failed to reach a quorum.

"The Commission is designed to play a critical role in our campaign finance system,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the Rules Committee chairman, said in a statement. “It is my hope that, once confirmed, Mr. Goodman and Ms. Ravel will work hard to restore the agency to a fully functioning independent federal watchdog for the nation’s campaign finance laws.”

To date, the nominations of Goodman and Ravel have faced few obstacles. A Senate Rules Committee hearing they attended in July was, at times, downright clubby, as both nominees posed for photos with senators after fielding about an hour's worth of routine questions.

But that's no guarantee they'll cakewalk their way to the 9th floor of 999 E St. NW in downtown Washington, D.C., where the FEC is headquartered.

Exhibit A: Labor lawyer John J. Sullivan, a Democrat, who Obama nominated to the FEC in 2009.

Like Goodman and Ravel, he won Senate Rules Committee approval with relative ease. But a Senate Democratic and Republican blocked his nomination, and in 2010, he withdrew from consideration after 15 months in politico limbo.

It's not immediately clear when the full Senate will vote on Goodman and Ravel. If the Senate again balks, Obama could appoint them to the FEC during a congressional recess — an option for which some congressional Democrats have advocated.

Obama remains the only president since the FEC's creation in the mid-1970s to never successfully appoint someone to the FEC.

The six-member FEC is operating with five commissioners after the February resignation of Democrat Cynthia Bauerly. The terms of all remaining commissioners have expired, meaning they continue to serve in "holdover status," which they may legally do indefinitely.

Ravel, chairwoman of the California Fair Political Practices Commission, is slated to fill Bauerly's former slot. Obama has tapped Goodman, a lawyer at firm LeClairRyan, to replace Republican Don McGahn, the FEC's vice chairman.

Update, Sept. 18, 2013, 10:15 a.m.: McGahn resigned from the FEC late Tuesday night and will become a partner at law firm Patton Boggs. This leaves the FEC with four active commissioners.