WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama's pick to head the Social Security Administration has run into more trouble after Senate Democrats canceled a procedural vote on her nomination.
Obama nominated Carolyn W. Colvin to a six-year term as commissioner in June, and Colvin's nomination cleared one procedural hurdle in the Senate Saturday. However, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., canceled an upcoming vote, making it likely Colvin won't get a vote until next year, when Republicans take control of the Senate.
Colvin's nomination would have taken up valuable floor time as the Senate rushes to finish its year-end business. Senators could speed the process but that would require a bipartisan agreement.
Colvin's nomination first ran into trouble when a group of Republican senators said they would try to block it while investigators look into a $300 million computer project at the agency.
The project, which doesn't work, predates Colvin's tenure — she has been acting commissioner since Feb. 2013. But an inspector general's investigation is ongoing.
"I don't know how the Senate can, with good conscience, vote to confirm anyone with this type of ongoing investigation going on around their immediate office," Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said in a floor speech. "It may very well turn out that Ms. Colvin did nothing wrong, but we need to know for sure."
Colvin defended her integrity and her long career in government in a recent interview with The Associated Press.
"I've worked in government my entire life. There's never been a suggestion, personal or professional, of any wrongdoing," Colvin said in the interview, which had been scheduled before the controversy erupted.
"I'm certainly not ending my career with that," Colvin continued. "I came out of retirement to help this organization, not hurt it."
Six years ago, Social Security embarked on an aggressive plan to replace outdated computer systems overwhelmed by a flood of disability claims. But the project has been racked by delays and mismanagement, according to an assessment commissioned by the agency over the summer.
The new computer system is supposed to help workers process and manage disability claims. But the project is still in the testing phase and the agency can't say if it will ever be operational or how much it will cost.
Colvin, 72, first worked as a deputy commissioner at Social Security in the 1990s. She left the agency in 2001 to become director of human services for the District of Columbia. She later had a similar job in Montgomery County, Maryland.
Colvin returned to Social Security in 2010 as deputy commissioner.
Follow Stephen Ohlemacher on Twitter: http://twitter.com/stephenatap