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SENATE

Lawmakers remove confirmation requirement

The Senate took the rare step of curbing its own power Wednesday, voting to no longer require Senate confirmation for 169 high-level federal jobs filled through presidential appointments.

Most of those jobs are second-tier Cabinet positions such as assistant secretaries and deputy directors that typically don’t inspire partisan wrangling. Nonetheless, the nominees often hang in limbo — and the jobs go unfilled for months because their confirmations get drawn into other fights.

The bill, passed 79-20 and sent to the House, is part of a broader bipartisan effort to make the famously fickle Senate work more efficiently.

“There is nothing wrong with the Senate doing a little prioritizing of pending business,” said Sen. Charles Schumer, New York Democrat, a co-sponsor of the legislation with Sen. Lamar Alexander, Tennessee Republican.

Critics said the bill only puts a bandage on the bigger problem of a mammoth government that should, itself, be trimmed.

“We’re moving to make it somewhat less accountable,” said Sen. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican.

NEW YORK

Gay marriage foes target 7 state senators

ALBANY — A group that opposes gay marriage says it will spend at least $2 million to oust seven New York state senators who changed their positions on gay marriage.

The Washington-based National Organization for Marriage says in an email to supporters that it is committed to helping elect majorities in 2012 that support marriage as being between only a man and a woman.

President Brian Brown says his group also wants to ensure that the Senate Republicans who broke party ranks “understand that voting for gay marriage has consequences.”

The four Republicans and three Democrats who changed their votes were key in last week’s decision making New York the sixth state to legalize same-sex marriage.

The group’s solicitation shows photographs of the seven senators.

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