WASHINGTON – The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, led by Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., held a nomination hearing Tuesday afternoon for Heather Higginbottom, who has been nominated by the President to be Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

Higginbottom currently serves as Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council. She joined the Administration after working on the Obama presidential campaign and before that worked with Senator John Kerry, D-Mass., and on his 2004 presidential campaign.

“If confirmed, you will have one of the nation’s more challenging jobs at this moment in our nation’s governance and economic history,” Lieberman said.  “You will be called upon to work closely with a politically-divided Congress – at a time when there are few easy decisions to make –  to help us bring the federal budget under control in a way that doesn’t impede our national economic recovery. Given the size of the current debt and our existing spending commitments, recurring threats of a government shutdown, the expiration next week of the third Continuing Resolution for Fiscal Year 2011, and an impending showdown over the debt ceiling, that is an extremely tall order, but one that we must all work together to meet.”

 The Chairman specifically questioned Higginbottom about OMB’s role in overseeing federal purchases of goods and services from the private sector.

“Oversight of federal acquisition is a critical OMB responsibility, especially given the amount of the budget it consumes,” Lieberman said. “More than half a trillion dollars were spent on federal contracts in FY2010, and some of it was wasted through mismanagement and, in some cases, fraud.”

Lieberman also urged Higginbottom, if she is confirmed, to pay special attention to the the management of information technology, government wide, so that OMB can help agencies better use technology to fulfill their missions more effectively, increase transparency, and encourage citizen participation in government.

Collins said: “The nominee’s background, while impressive in many respects, does not include a great deal of experience in the budget process or financial analysis which is so important given the fiscal challenges we face.  I am deeply concerned about the Administration’s lack of leadership on the these challenges.  Six months ago, at the hearing on the nomination of the OMB Director, I spoke of my concern that we are heading toward a future of financial stagnation, bogged down by costly entitlements, sluggish economic growth, and high unemployment.  I also expressed my hope that OMB would help put forward a realistic plan to prevent the federal budget from becoming an albatross that threatens economic growth, job security, and career opportunities for young people trying to enter the workforce — or that would jeopardize retirement savings right at the moment the baby boomers are all retiring.  I hoped then to avoid our current situation, where so many Americans are coping with what’s turning out to be a decade of lost opportunity, lost prosperity, and lost investment.”

Lieberman said he hoped to markup Higgenbottom’s nomination at a March 16 Committee business meeting.