Filling posts

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on December 31, 2001

Well, the subject of recess appointments has come up again. With the Congress out of town, Bush can use recess appointments to help staff his administration. This isn't the first time that Congress has been slow in approving a president's nominees. When Clinton was in office, there were delays and fights over nominees. Clinton had to put up several women for the post of attorney general, before settling on Janet Reno, Clinton submitted, then withdrew the names of several candidates for the post.

The problem with Clinton's nominees? They'd employed illegal aliens and failed to pay social security taxes for them. When Linda Chavez was first nominated to be Labor Secretary by George W. Bush, she was scrutinized (and derided) for doing much the same thing. (There is evidence, however, that the situations were not the same. It appears as though Chavez allowed the woman to stay in her home and occasionally gave her money out of charity, as opposed to the demonstrated employer/employee relationship of Clinton's nominees.)

However, part of the reason Congress was slow to approve Clinton's nominees had to do with Clinton. The former president was slow, much slower than George W. Bush, in nominating people to fill the posts.

Anyway, Sen. Tom Daschle continues his stonewalling ways. On NBC's "Meet the Press," Daschle suggested that Bush withdraw the nominees Daschle and his friends, namely Sen. Chris Dodd, don't like.

Daschle said there is strong opposition, particularly for (Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere nominee Otto) Reich. He said Bush should instead withdraw the nomination.

A recess appointment ``isn't the way it ought to be addressed,'' he said. ``The constitutional responsibility of the president and Congress is to work together on these nominees.''

This just in: Elections have consequences. Bush's nominees should mirror Bush and his policies. Al Gore didn't win, so, unless Bush's nominees are unqualified to hold the post for which they've been nominated, they need to be approved.

Dodd, the senator in charge of the committee that would screen Reich, refuses to schedule a hearing.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Dodd certainly has some large cajones:

Senator Chris Dodd is still smarting from having tangled with Mr. Reich over the Nicaraguan Sandinistas in the 1980s. So now he refuses to give Mr. Reich even a hearing. And then, in a December 20 letter cosigned by GOP Senator Michael Enzi, he warns President Bush not to give Mr. Reich a recess appointment, on the astounding grounds that Mr. Reich "has not gone through the requisite committee process"!

You'd think with Argentina falling apart, that it might be a good idea to have the assistant secretary of state position filled. Schedule a vote, if Reich can't get confirmed, then Bush can try again. But do the job. Go through the process.

And Reich isn't the only one being held hostage by politics.

But nothing illustrates the Daschle Senate better than the treatment of Eugene Scalia, President Bush's pick to be the Labor Department's top lawyer. Back when a Republican-controlled Senate found itself at odds with then-President Clinton over the appointment of Bill Lann Lee as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, Mr. Lee was given a hearing. And it was Democrats who fought sending his name to the floor for a vote--because they knew he would lose. President Clinton then responded not with a regular recess appointment that would expire at the end of that Congress. Instead he named Mr. Lee Acting Assistant Attorney General, in clear violation of the Vacancies Act and something that even Mr. Clinton noted was not "entirely constitutional."

In sharp contrast, Mr. Scalia would win a floor vote. He is being held up by Senator Ted Kennedy for what everyone knows is payback for the role his father, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, played in the Bush v. Gore recount case. Mr. Scalia was reported favorably out of the Senate Labor Committee in early October. But Mr. Daschle has prevented it from moving to the floor for a vote, telling ABC News he didn't think "the votes are there."

There may not be 60 votes to end a filibuster against Mr. Scalia, but a clear majority of 54 Senators, including independent Jim Jeffords, are set to back him. Thus, Mr. Daschle seems to be creating a new extra-constitutional rule that "controversial" nominees like Mr. Scalia will need 60 Senators before Presidents get their choice of appointees. In supporting a filibuster, Mr. Daschle is refusing to let the Senate work its will, an abdication of its advise and consent role. No one can remember the last time a nominee who had the majority vote him out of committee did not then get a floor vote.

Well, you can toss the Bill Lann Lee nomination onto the list of laws which Clinton violated during his term in office. Unfortunately, no one inside the beltway had the guts to call Clinton on his brazen violation of the law.

And now Democrats are crying?

I was, however, relieved to see on CNN's "Late Edition" that both a Democratic consultant and Al Gore's former campaign manager, Donna Brazille, came out against Daschle's stonewalling tactics. Both said that Bush's nominees should get a vote on the Senate floor. Brazille added that "they should get a vote, and be voted down." That statement showed how uncomprehending Brazille is of the situation on the Hill. The reason Daschle isn't moving on either of the nominations is that they wouldn't be voted down.

"I take issue with this obstructionist charge. The fact is we've had a very successful fall if you look at all the things we've accomplished.''

Accomplish a couple more things Tom, schedule a vote for Eugene Scalia. It should only take a few minutes, he's already had his committee hearing. And make Dodd schedule a hearing for Reich. If there isn't enough support for his nomination then fine. But do your job.


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December 2001



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