WASHINGTON - The Senate and the White House broke off talks late yesterday on confirming dozens of President Bush's nominees until at least next month.
Steven Preston was set to be confirmed as secretary of the Housing and Urban Development Department for the remainder of Bush's term before the Senate left town for its weeklong Memorial Day vacation. But majority Democrats and Bush's aides could not agree on who among the nearly 80 nominees for other posts would be confirmed, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) said.
Talks were expected to continue during the break, Senate Democrats said. Congress reconvenes the first week of June.
Preston's confirmation would have been unusually quick. Earlier yesterday, at his confirmation hearing, he assured senators he would use his time at HUD to try to help solve the housing crisis.
"I'm a firm believer that we can get a lot done in eight months," he told the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee.
Preston, head of the Small Business Administration, was nominated to succeed Alphonso Jackson, who resigned in March amid a criminal investigation and allegations of political favoritism.
"If confirmed, you will only be in office a short time," committee chairman Christopher J. Dodd (D., Conn.) noted. Bush's term ends in January. "But I urge that your first order of business be to begin to clean up and restore confidence in HUD among employees and the American public."
Preston also will be at the center of efforts to help people fight record-high foreclosures. "If I'm confirmed, I'm going to be at the table working collaboratively with you all," he told senators.