- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 31, 2001

President Bush's appointment to head the Consumer Product Safety Commission is in trouble because of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign to derail the confirmation.

Dubbing the campaign "Hillary's first stand" — because the New York Democrat until now has kept a low profile — Republicans privately say Mary Sheila Gall may be the first Bush nomination to fail in the Democrat-controlled Senate.

A vote on Miss Gall's nomination is scheduled for Thursday in an executive session of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

If Miss Gall's nomination remains locked in committee, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle said yesterday, he will allow a full Senate vote.

"That would be the end of it as far as I'm concerned," said Mr. Daschle, South Dakota Democrat.

"I obviously will consider other options, but I don't anticipate anything else happening at this point," Mr. Daschle said.

Mr. Daschle said two Democrats on the committee — one of whom is Sen. John B. Breaux of Louisiana, Mr. Breaux's spokesman said — have not decided how they will vote. A Republican committee member, Sen. Peter G. Fitzgerald of Illinois, is also undecided, his spokesman said. Democrats control the committee by one vote.

Democrats are pushing the issue as a test of party loyalty and anticipate a straight party-line vote to sink Miss Gall's nomination, Democratic aides say. A survey of committee Democrats showed no outright support for Miss Gall, although four of the 12 offices polled did not return calls.

Republicans view the vote as a key test of whether Democrats will treat Mr. Bush's nominees fairly. "So far, their actions and rhetoric are not making the situation a positive one," said a Republican leadership aide.

Mrs. Clinton has acknowledged working behind the scenes to stall the nomination, talking "to anybody who will listen," she said last week. She has assisted in staging press conferences to attack Miss Gall and has lined up committee Democrats to carefully question the nominee during her confirmation hearing.

"We just respectfully disagree about the role of this commission," Mrs. Clinton said last week.

Mrs. Clinton's bargaining chip with her Democratic colleagues is her talent for fund raising. Her political fund-raising committee has generated $660,000 in six months, which will be distributed to Democratic candidates up for re-election.

Republican aides and supporters said the former first lady is actively engaged in leading the opposition with a zeal not seen since she left the White House.

"It's politics at its zenith," one supporter said.

Mrs. Clinton is a close friend of the current Consumer Product Safety Commission chairman, Ann Brown, and both have served as board members for the Children's Defense Fund, a group that favors government regulations to protect children. Miss Gall prefers voluntary standards over government regulations for consumer products.

Capitol Hill aides say Mrs. Brown and Miss Gall hold different philosophical views on government regulations and have engaged in policy disputes. Miss Gall's supporters say she has been portrayed unfairly as favoring industry over the safety of babies and the elderly.

Information from a closed-door commission meeting was leaked to embarrass Miss Gall, Republican aides say. Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, disclosed proceedings from the meeting during last week's confirmation hearing.

The intense opposition prompted Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott yesterday to call on Mr. Bush to fire Mrs. Brown, who was appointed by President Clinton to chair the commission. A call to the White House for comment was not returned.

Miss Gall, first appointed by President George Bush, has served on the commission for 10 years. Mr. Clinton renominated her in 1999 with no Democrats objecting.

"I think part of what's going on here is that there are some Democrats who want to keep the current chairman, Ann Brown, in place at the Consumer Product Safety Commission. I have urged the administration to take steps to remove her," said Mr. Lott, Mississippi Republican.

"Commissioner Gall is being treated very badly, and I don't agree with what she's been having to endure," Mr. Lott said.

"There is a conflict between commissioner Brown and Gall, and that perhaps was what was driving part of this," Mr. Lott said. "So no matter what happens with the nominee to be the new chairman, the current chairman should be removed, in my opinion, and I hope they can find a way to do that," Mr. Lott said.

• Dave Boyer contributed to this report.

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