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Obama budget nominee pledges to boost growth, cut deficit

By Mark Felsenthal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama's choice to head the White House Office of Management and Budget told Senate panels on Wednesday he would cut budget deficits while funding programs to spur growth but faced criticism of administration management of government.

"Over the last five years, the deficit has been cut in half as a share of the economy," Obama's nominee, Shaun Donovan, said in testimony before the Senate Budget Committee.

"Our nation can continue this progress while focusing on the critical goals of accelerating economic growth, creating jobs and expanding opportunities for all Americans," said Donovan, who is currently secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

But ranking budget committee Republican Jeff Sessions took Donovan sharply to task for what he said were Obama administration management stumbles across the federal government. Sessions said problems at the departments of Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services and HUD, which Donovan has led since 2009, were of concern.

"I don’t know that we’ve seen yet the commitment, the dedication, the drive, the real imperative to get this government under control," Sessions said. The lawmaker said he had not decided yet whether he would support Donovan's confirmation.

Donovan in testimony to both the budget and homeland security and governmental affairs committees pledged to use his perch as budget director to make government management more effective.

Obama is under heavy criticism for delays in providing health care to military veterans that have raised questions about his administration's management abilities.

Donovan mentioned the work the housing agency has done to assist veterans twice during his opening statement.

Lawmakers on both panels expressed concern about government spending and the U.S. debt held by the public.

"From my standpoint, if you want to take a look at what’s happening in terms of this economy and why it’s not growing as rapidly as it should be is the onerous nature of the size of government," Wisconsin Republican Ron Johnson said at Donovan's hearing before the homeland security panel.

However, the senior Republican on the homeland security panel, Tom Coburn, said he had no doubt Donovan would be approved by the committee.

If approved by the Senate, Donovan would take over from Sylvia Mathews Burwell, who left to take over the Department of Health and Human Services, an agency that was roiled by the botched rollout of the president's signature Affordable Care Act health law last year.

(Reporting By Mark Felsenthal; Editing by Sofina Mirza-Reid and Jonathan Oatis)

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