Hawley blocks McConnell-backed nominees, escalating feud

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Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) is throwing a wrench into Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell’s (Ky.) effort to confirm two former aides to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), escalating a feud between the first-term conservative senator and the veteran party leader.
Hawley informed McConnell in a letter Wednesday that he wants more time to vet the McConnell-backed nominees, who were slated to be approved by unanimous consent along with a slate of Biden nominees.
“By agreeing to such a negotiated package in exchange for just a few Republican appointees you have personally deemed a priority, I believe we risk giving away too much,” Hawley wrote.
“If Republicans are planning to install dozens of Biden nominees for positions across the federal government — without a vote — in exchange for just a handful of our own selections, I want to be sure that we get our nominees right,” Hawley wrote, citing the nominations of Andrew Ferguson and Todd Inman, two former McConnell aides, to the FTC and NTSB, respectively.
Three Democratic appointees currently sit on the five-member FTC, and the two spots reserved for Republicans are vacant.
Meanwhile, the chairwoman of the five-member NTSB was appointed by Biden, and three members were appointed by former President Trump while one seat remains vacant.
Hawley informed McConnell in his letter that he wants both nominees to explain their views on the regulation of the tech and rail industries, respectively, in more detail.
“Andrew Ferguson, nominated to be a commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission, should answer additional questions on his philosophy concerning Big Tech, given the importance of that issue to our conference,” he wrote. “I also believe that Todd Inman, who is under consideration for the National Transportation Safety Board, should be asked to further articulate his views on various transportation policies, including rail safety and autonomous vehicles.”
Hawley said he will block them from advancing on the Senate floor until they satisfy his concerns.
“I am currently withholding my consent for these nominees to be confirmed without a floor vote — as is any senator’s right to do — until I and others can evaluate satisfactory responses to these important policy questions,” he wrote.
McConnell declined to comment about Hawley’s holds when asked about them as he walked back to his office from the floor.
Ferguson, whom Biden nominated to the FTC in July, serves as solicitor general of Virginia and previously served as McConnell’s chief counsel.
Inman, whom Biden nominated to the NTSB in July, previously served as chief of staff to former Trump Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who is married to McConnell. He also previously worked as a campaign aide to McConnell.
Inman, if confirmed, would replace Trump-appointed NTSB Vice Chair Bruce Landsberg, whose term expired on Dec. 31, 2022.
The tiff between the two GOP senators is the latest escalation in a feud that has simmered since November of last year, when Hawley called for a change in Senate Republican leadership and supported Sen. Rick Scott’s (R-Fla.) challenge against McConnell.
They battled this month over an amendment to the annual defense authorization bill sponsored by Hawley that would have expanded the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act to cover individuals and families in St. Louis exposed to improperly stored nuclear waste left over from the development of the first atomic bomb during World War II.
Hawley said that McConnell made a priority in the final negotiations over the defense bill to strip Hawley’s amendment, even though it was approved with 61 votes on the Senate floor.
Senate Republican aides familiar with the negotiations said the GOP leader opposed Hawley’s provision because he viewed it as a “budget buster” and “unfunded mandate.”
Hawley argued, however, that he proposed ways to pay for the added costs of expanding the program and that including people from the St. Louis area would only add minimally to the cost of the program over its lifetime.

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