- The Washington Times - Friday, August 3, 2001

A Senate panel yesterday denied Mary Sheila Gall the chairmanship of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, making her the first Bush administration nominee to be rejected in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
The 12-11 party-line vote in the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee was largely expected, as the leading role of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, to defeat the nomination surfaced in recent days.
Republicans criticized the sentiment against Miss Gall as purely partisan.
"It is regrettable that the vote today is likely to be partisan, as the smear campaign against Mary Sheila Gall has been," Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican and ranking committee member, said before the vote.
"This is a witch hunt," said committee member Sen. Conrad Burns, Montana Republican. "I don't think any of us can take pride in this vote."
Two Bush nominees were confirmed by the Senate yesterday, including Arkansas Rep. Asa Hutchinson to head the Drug Enforcement Administration and Robert Mueller to be FBI director.
Miss Gall was first nominated to sit on the commission by President George Bush in 1991, and was renominated by President Clinton in 1999. Both times the Senate unanimously voted to confirm Miss Gall. President George W. Bush nominated her this year to chair the commission.
Mrs. Clinton has acknowledged working behind the scenes to defeat the nomination, saying she and Miss Gall "respectfully disagree about the role of this commission."
Democrats say their opposition is based on Miss Gall's reluctance to regulate products that are used by consumers in a negligent fashion.
"She's a fine person who believes honestly in her positions, but in the real world we live in, people are negligent with products," said Sen. John B. Breaux, Louisiana Democrat.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission's role is to balance individual responsibility with government regulation, said Sen. Ron Wyden, Oregon Democrat.
"She skews the balance and essentially blames the consumer first," Mr. Wyden said.
However, critics say it was Mrs. Clinton's personal friendship with the current chairman, Ann Brown, who sharply disagreed with Miss Gall on several issues before the commission, that drove the derailment.
Republican Minority Leader Trent Lott called on President Bush Monday to remove Mrs. Brown from her position. Nancy Harvey Steorts, who chaired the commission during President Reagan's first term, said the current chairman "needs to move on."
"I think it was just unconscionable," Mrs. Steorts said of the vote. "I have never seen the Consumer Product Safety Commission so politicized and it is indeed unfortunate. The consumers are the losers in all of this."
Mr. Lott said his colleagues are "disappointed that Democrats are treating her so badly."
"She was confirmed twice by the Senate in the Bush and Clinton years, and she deserves the job," he said.
Miss Gall said she was "clearly disappointed" by the committee action.
"My years of public service to this country simply do not merit today's vote," she said in a written statement. "I believe it is unfortunate that my family has been subjected to the partisan rhetoric that has surrounded this nomination. My whole life, both personal and professional, has been dedicated to children and families," she said.
After Miss Gall's nomination failed in committee, Mr. McCain offered a motion to send the nomination to the full Senate for a vote with an unfavorable committee report, but that measure also failed on a party-line vote.
The committee vote, coupled with Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle's less-than-enthusiastic support, may kill Miss Gall's nomination.
However, the White House said it is negotiating a strategy with Republican senators to jump-start Miss Gall's nomination after the August recess, and has not ruled out a recess appointment.
"The White House is focused right now on the vote and on the meaning of the vote. Any other events will come in due course," said Ari Fleischer, White House spokesman.
A Senate Republican aide said they are also considering procedural blocks to force a full Senate vote after the recess.
Stephen Dinan contributed to this report.

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