Contrary to the predictions of some "small business advocates," Small Business Administration chief Steven Preston sailed through his confirmation hearing last Thursday to be named Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Several Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Banking Committee praised Preston's tenure at the SBA. "You've scored some very significant points with people who have come to work with you," said committee chairman Christopher Dodd (D-CT), according to the Wall Street Journal "I'm very hopeful that you will have what it takes to begin to address the major challenges at HUD and in the larger housing market." At least one report suggested he might be confirmed at the end of the day. There's pressing business at HUD: morale is low (Preston's forte!) and Congress and the White House are struggling over fixes to the foreclosure crisis.
However, it now looks as though Preston won't be confirmed until early June, at the earliest. The reason for the delay: Tennessee Republican Sen Lamar Alexander blocked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's choice to fill a position on the board of the "Institute of Peace," because Reid was in turn blocking Republican appointments to the Tennessee Valley Authority. (Any Senator can place a "hold" on a nomination for any reason.) And so, according to an update from the Journal, a deal to confirm 80 executive appointments, including Preston's, has collapsed.