- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 14, 2001

Republican leaders are threatening to block all legislation as a strategy to move President Bush's stalled executive nominees through the Senate.
"lt is vital that President Bush have his team in place as soon as possible, so the administration can move the agenda of the American people forward, and we must do everything we can to make this happen," said Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican.
The procedural block worked last week when two Republican senators refused to allow debate on an Interior Department spending bill until the Democratic leadership agreed to a floor vote for all pending Interior Department nominees.
Sen. Larry E. Craig of Idaho argued that "it isn't worth passing the interior appropriations bill if we don't have someone to implement the appropriations," his spokeswoman said.
Mr. Craig succeeded in lifting a hold on Steve Griles for interior deputy secretary, whose nomination was strongly opposed by environmental groups.
Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona also refused to let debate begin until the five remaining nominees were promised a floor vote.
"The new Senate leadership has moved quickly on the issues of interest to them, yet they drift and delay on other items pivotal to the proper functioning of government," Mr. Kyl said.
"Presidents are entitled to swift consideration of the men and women they have asked to serve their administrations," Mr. Kyl said.
The debate on interior spending proceeded on schedule Tuesday, and Democrats kept their promise to allow the votes by the close of business Thursday. All six were approved by a unanimous voice vote.
A leadership aide told The Washington Times that Mr. Kyl and Mr. Craig's strategy had and will continue to have Mr. Lott's blessing.
Mr. Bush has delivered more civilian nominations to the Senate, but received fewer confirmations, than his three immediate predecessors.
According to the executive clerk of the Senate, Mr. Bush has submitted 411 civilian nominations to date, and 187 have been confirmed.
However, the White House is blaming the lag on both Democrats and Republicans.
"It does not seem to be a high-enough priority of the United States Senate for attention to be focused on it," White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said at a July 2 briefing.
Mr. Kyl agreed that confirmations are proceeding at the slowest pace on record, calling it a "confirmation crisis" that is "inexcusable."
"He will do whatever he can to get the confirmations moving," said spokesman Matthew Latimer.
There are no particular nominees whom Mr. Kyl wants to advance, but he does not want Congress to leave for the August recess with a backlog, Mr. Latimer said.
In addition to Mr. Griles, the Senate approved Bill Myers as solicitor; Fran Mainella as National Park Service director; John Keys as Reclamation Bureau commissioner; Lynn Scarlett as assistant secretary for policy, management and budget; and Bennett Raley as assistant secretary for water and science.
"Each of these highly qualified and extraordinarily talented professionals represent the beginning of an outstanding team at the Department of Interior," said Gale A. Norton, interior secretary.
"All believe in communicating with people of good faith and cooperating and collaborating in the service of conservation," Mrs. Norton said.

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