Last week we had a post regarding an attempt by an unknown senator to hold hostage the nominations of the Obama administration’s two top science advisers, John Holdren and Jane Lubchenco. Holdren has been nominated to head up the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and Lubchenco is to lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
At the time, the consensus among reporters and insiders was that Sen. Mel Menendez was behind this. I should have noted when I wrote the previous post that one of the more pernicious aspects of Senate protocol is the ability of individual senators to put blind “holds” on nominations (although aggressive reporting and leaks have begun to undermine this privilege). But, in the past week, Menedez has denied all responsibility. Other suspects’ names have surfaced, such as Sen. David Vitter, but he and the others have maintained some form of denial, too.
Mike Dunford at Science’s The Questionable Authority blog has been doing a great job of trying to keep the timelines and various threads of this story straight, and even he isn’t sure what’s going on – except, obviously that Holdren and Lubchenco still aren’t approved. Talking Point Memo’s Elana Schor (who like Dunford and the Washington Post, has also been doing a terrific job on this story) today says she is still not ready to rule out Vitter and thinks he is being cagey when it comes to his and his staff’s responses. On the other hand, a new post on the Senate website says that a hearing by the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on the confirmations is supposed to be held this afternoon. Stay tuned.