- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 22, 1999

The White House went ahead with a problematic recess appointment an act that now threatens to halt all judicial confirmations even after Republican senators raised objections to the nominee, Senate sources said yesterday.
A Senate Republican aide said the administration first proposed the recess reappointment of Sarah Fox to the National Labor Relations Board last week, a month after the Senate adjourned. The White House knew by then which recess appointments were acceptable, and Miss Fox's renomination was not among them.
"They ran this up the flagpole last week," the aide said.
Some Republican senators say President Clinton's actions broke an agreement to alert the Senate in advance of recess appointments.
Sen. James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican, said Monday he will place a "hold" on all Clinton judicial nominations next year because Mr. Clinton broke his pact with the Senate by not notifying senators before the recess about Miss Fox.
But a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, said the White House did discuss the planned nomination with Mr. Lott's office. And White House spokesman Joe Lockhart yesterday rejected Mr. Inhofe's contention.
"The senator is wrong," Mr. Lockhart said. "We made an agreement with Senator Lott. And it's really unfortunate, given what Supreme Court Chief Justice [William H.] Rehnquist has said about the backlog in our courts … that you have a senator once again starting a legislative session with more threats about how they can block appointees. I think most Americans know our judicial system needs progress, rather than partisanship."
Inhofe spokesman Gary Hoitsma confirmed yesterday that Mr. Lott's office relayed the White House's intentions to Mr. Inhofe last week and that Mr. Inhofe objected to the reappointment of Miss Fox.
"We were assured that our concerns were communicated to the White House," Mr. Hoitsma said. "We're fully confident that the White House was aware we would respond the way we did."
Miss Fox former labor counsel to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, and an attorney for the International Union of Bricklayers has been a member of the NLRB since 1996. The term for which she was confirmed expired Thursday.
Miss Fox yesterday declined to comment on her reappointment. Conservatives view the Ivy League-educated NLRB member as a friend of big labor in her rulings, such as one in September that held unions can charge dissenting workers for the cost of conscripting new members.
A member of the National Right-to-Work Legal Defense Foundation has accused Miss Fox of personally blocking 88 percent of cases awaiting NLRB rulings in which the issue is whether dissenting workers must pay for activities unrelated to collective bargaining, such as partisan politics.
Mr. Inhofe said he is not objecting to Miss Fox's political persuasion, but to the president violating the principle of his agreement with the Senate.
Mr. Inhofe warned Mr. Clinton in a letter Nov. 23 that any recess appointment other than nine submitted on a list from the White House would result in Senate roadblocks.
After the White House submitted a list of nominees for possible recess appointments last month, Mr. Inhofe said on the Senate floor Nov. 19 that five candidates would raise objections from senators: Bill Lann Lee, for renomination as assistant attorney general for civil rights; Sally Katzen, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget; John Holum, undersecretary for arms control and international security in the State Department; Carl Spielvogel, ambassador to the Slovak Republic; and Jay Johnson, U.S. Mint.
Mr. Inhofe said there would be no objections to nine others: Cliff Stuart, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; Delmond Won, Federal Maritime Commission; Leonard Page, general counsel to the National Labor Relations Board; Luis Laurado, Development Bank; Mark Schneider, Peace Corps; Frank Holleman, deputy secretary in the Education Department; Mike Walker, department of Veterans Affairs; and Janie Jeffers and Marie Ragghianti, U.S. Parole Commission.
Mr. Inhofe has pointed out that Miss Fox was not on that list. He sent a letter to the president Nov. 23 stating that "any recess appointment other than the nine listed above would constitute a violation of the spirit of our agreement and trigger multiple holds on all judicial nominees."
Another Senate Republican source, meanwhile, suggested that the dispute may have arisen from a simple missed communication.
This source said Miss Fox's nomination was "hot lined," or relayed by Mr. Lott's office on an internal Senate audio-message system, the week before the Senate adjourned. Senators and their staff are alerted to most developments on nominations in this manner, the source said.
"It's up to each office to watch these things," he said. "If someone misses the call, some nominees could slip by them."
Sen. Larry E. Craig, who joined Mr. Inhofe last month in warning the president about surprise recess appointments, said through a spokesman yesterday that he will support Mr. Inhofe's move to block all judicial nominees.
"He supported Inhofe's original initiative and he's supporting him now," said Will Hart, a spokesman for the Idaho Republican.
He added that Mr. Craig believes the reappointment of Miss Fox does violate the president's pact with the Senate.
Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said blocking all judicial nominations "would be a reckless and disproportionate response."
"The target here may be the president, but the hostage is the criminal and civil justice system," Mr. Leahy said. "It's the holiday season and the end of an era. The country would cheer if we would just leave behind this poisoned political atmosphere as a relic that we do not intend to carry into the new millennium."
Mr. Inhofe secured a written pledge from Mr. Clinton on recess appointments this summer after the president angered many Republican senators by installing James C. Hormel, a homosexual activist, to be ambassador to Luxembourg, and Mr. Lee at the Justice Department.
The Senate confirmed 25 judges last year; another 43 judicial nominations were not acted upon.

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