- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 2, 2001

Democrats are expected to hand President Bush his first defeat on a nomination today when a Senate panel votes on Mary Sheila Gall to lead the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

"We don't have a requirement to confirm anybody the president sends up, especially on an issue as important as this is to children," said Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, is leading the opposition to Miss Gall. Congressional sources say Mrs. Clinton has decided to make the nomination her first high-profile stand as a lawmaker.

Senators in both parties said they expected a party-line vote in the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, although Democrats confirmed Miss Gall unanimously for a second term on the commission in 1999.

"They're rallying around Hillary," a Senate Republican aide said of the Democrats.

Said a White House official yesterday of the Gall nomination, "There's no way we're going to be able to pull this off. This is politics at its worst."

Senate Republicans, are considering ways to force Mr. Daschle to let the full Senate vote on the Gall nomination in the fall. That strategy could include holding up spending bills, but a Senate Republican leadership aide stressed that such a decision won't be made until after the August recess.

Mr. Daschle yesterday all but closed the door on a vote by the full Senate if the committee rejects Miss Gall's nomination.

"It's rare that people, outside of the judiciary, come to the Senate floor after a [failed] committee vote," he said. "I can't think of a time, at least in recent years, where once the committee has taken action, that we've done anything else."

A friend and supporter of Miss Gall said yesterday the nominee has no intention of withdrawing her name if the committee rejects her.

"She's not backing down at all," the friend said. "And she's well aware of the edict Senator Daschle has passed along that this is a vote on party loyalty."

The three-member commission is charged with conducting research into consumer products, creating and enforcing standards for safety, and issuing recalls for products it deems unsafe. Some of its higher-profile recalls are on child-safety grounds.

One of the few committee Democrats who had not announced his intentions, Sen. John B. Breaux of Louisiana, said yesterday that he probably would oppose Miss Gall's nomination.

He said sometimes product designs don't discourage unsafe use, while he sees Miss Gall's default position as assuming a product's user was in error.

Democrats said that difference matters particularly for the commission's chairman and where children are involved.

"I think she's very personable," Mr. Daschle said. "But I have to say her positions on safety, specific especially to children, make her ability, it seems to me, to chair the commission an impossibility."

Sen. Peter G. Fitzgerald, Illinois Republican, said yesterday before an unrelated news conference with Mrs. Clinton that he will support Miss Gall.

"I think that she is qualified," Mr. Fitzgerald said. "Nothing that has been presented by the opposition rises to the level of the Senate not confirming her. I think some of the opposition to her is probably overblown, but you're not going to bring that up at this press conference with Hillary Clinton, are you?"

Mrs. Clinton, who is close to agency Chairman Ann Brown, reiterated her opposition.

"I think it's important to note that Consumers Union, a totally nonpartisan, independent group that publishes Consumer Reports, came out against this nomination, the first time ever in their history to take such a stand," she said.

Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi is working with the White House to demote Mrs. Brown from the chairman's post regardless of Miss Gall's fate. The Republicans hope this threat will dissuade Democrats from denying Miss Gall the top spot on the commission.

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