- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 21, 1999

A Republican senator said yesterday he will block all of President Clinton’s judicial nominees next year because Mr. Clinton on Friday quietly broke his written promise to notify the Senate before making recess appointments.

The president’s reappointment of Sarah Fox, a labor-friendly member of the National Labor Relations Board, came without the required notice before the Senate left town, said Sen. James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican.

“The president has broken his word yet again and confirmed the deep and unfortunate breakdown in trust which exists between the Clinton-Gore administration and the Congress,” Mr. Inhofe said.

“I will do exactly what I said I would do if the president deliberately violated our agreement,” he said. “I will place a hold’ on every judicial nominee which reaches the Senate calendar for the remainder of the Clinton presidency.”

A White House spokesman, Jake Siewert, insisted last night that the administration did “discuss” Miss Fox’s nomination with Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican.

“We communicated with the majority leader’s office on this,” Mr. Siewert said.

A spokesman for Mr. Lott, John Czwartacki, said last night that the White House “did inform us” about the pending recess appointment of Miss Fox on a list other than the one to which Mr. Inhofe referred.

But he said Mr. Inhofe still has a right to object to the appointment.

“If Senator Inhofe chooses to exercise his right and wishes to place a hold, Senator Lott will hear and honor that hold,” Mr. Czwartacki said.

The two Republican senators “both understand where the other one is” on the matter, Mr. Czwartacki said.

Mr. Inhofe secured the written pledge from Mr. Clinton this summer after the president angered senators with recess appointments of James C. Hormel, a homosexual, to be ambassador to Luxembourg, and of Bill Lann Lee to be assistant attorney general in charge of civil rights.

After Mr. Inhofe threatened to block further Clinton nominations, the president on June 15 wrote to Mr. Lott: “My administration has made it a practice to notify Senate leaders in advance of our intentions in this regard, and this precedent will continue to be observed.”

But Miss Fox’s name was not on a list of 13 contemplated appointments that Mr. Clinton submitted to the Senate last month, Mr. Inhofe said.

A Senate Republican aide said Miss Fox is “considered extremely liberal” and probably would have run into “considerable opposition” in the Senate if Mr. Clinton had tried to reappoint her through the normal process.

Asked why Miss Fox was not on the list cited by Mr. Inhofe, Mr. Siewert reasserted that the Republican leadership was informed of the president’s desire to reappoint her.

“I can’t account for his list,” he said of Mr. Inhofe.

Mr. Inhofe said in a statement that he “has not yet had time to contact any of his colleagues” on the matter.

In September, Miss Fox ruled with the NLRB majority that unions can charge dissenting workers for the cost of conscripting new members. The ruling runs counter to Supreme Court precedent, which held that unions could not compel nonmembers to subsidize union politics with which they disagreed.

Under a recess appointment, the nominee can serve up to one year without any Senate action. That would take Miss Fox virtually up to the last days of the Clinton administration.

Stan Greer, a spokesman for the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation in Springfield, said Miss Fox has shown a “real zeal” to go beyond the boundaries of the National Labor Relations Act in favor of big labor in her rulings.

“We do think it would have been quite difficult” for her to be confirmed again by the Senate, Mr. Greer said.

Another foundation member has accused Miss Fox of personally blocking 88 percent of cases awaiting NLRB rulings over whether dissenting workers may be charged 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 cooperation and executive branch respect for the Senate’s proper role on the confirmation process.”

“Considering the lame-duck status of the Clinton presidency, I believe it is now appropriate to defer these important life-term judicial appointments to the next president,” Mr. Inhofe said in a statement.

Of the 13 nominees submitted by the president, five had “holds” or prospective holds on their nominations and would therefore be considered unacceptable as recess appointments by many senators, Mr. Inhofe said.

Miss Fox, former labor counsel to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, and an attorney for the Bricklayers Union, has been a member of the NLRB since 1996. The term for which she was confirmed expired Thursday.

Mr. Inhofe said Mr. Clinton failed to notify the Senate about Miss Fox’s pending appointment although the president did tell senators of his intention to nominate Leonard Page to the same board. Mr. Inhofe said he and other senators agreed that Mr. Page was acceptable.

Mr. Inhofe said he expected other Republican senators would join him in placing “holds” on all Clinton judicial nominees next year and in taking any other steps within Senate rules to block such judicial confirmations.

The agreement between Senate Republicans and Mr. Clinton was identical to a pact in 1985 between President Reagan and Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia.

That agreement stated, “In the future, prior to any recess breaks, the White House would inform the majority leader and (the minority leader) of any recess appointment which might be contemplated during such recess. They would do so in advance sufficiently to allow the leadership on both sides to perhaps take action to fill whatever vacancies that might be imperative during such a break.”

In a Nov. 10 letter to the president, Mr. Inhofe and 16 other Republican senators stated: “If you do make recess appointments during the upcoming recess which violate the spirit of our agreement, then we will respond by placing holds on all judicial nominees. The result would be a complete breakdown in cooperation between our two branches of government on this issue which could prevent the confirmation of any such nominees next year.”

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