- The Washington Times - Monday, December 31, 2001

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle yesterday defended his requirement that contentious measures, such as an economic stimulus package or a bill to allow oil drilling in an Alaskan wildlife refuge, must have 60 votes to pass, not the usual 51.
Because of what some Republicans call the Democratic leader's "obstructionism," Assistant Minority Leader Don Nickles of Oklahoma the Senate's No. 2 Republican is advising President Bush to make recess appointments of two nominees whose nominations have been blocked by the Democrat-controlled Senate.
The Senate went on its monthlong holiday recess without taking up the president's choices of Otto Reich to be assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs and Eugene Scalia, son of conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, to be the Labor Department's solicitor.
Mr. Bush said Friday he was considering making recess appointments of the two. That action would allow them to serve until January 2003 without Senate confirmation.
Asked yesterday on NBC's "Meet the Press" whether Mr. Bush should make recess appointments, Mr. Nickles said, "I hate to say so, but yes."
Mr. Daschle, of South Dakota, who also appeared on "Meet the Press," reacted this way: "I would discourage it, but I recognize that's the president's prerogative. That isn't the way it ought to be addressed. The constitutional responsibility of the president and Congress is to work together on these nominees."
The majority leader said the Senate will get a chance to take up the nominations, but he offered no time frame
He also said "controversial nominees are the same as controversial legislation." No one should expect an up-or-down vote in such cases, he said.
Mr. Nickles explained for viewers the restrictive nature of the vote Senate Democrats planned for Mr. Scalia, whose father's vote last year in the Bush v. Gore decision ensured Mr. Bush's election as president. Mr. Nickles said organized labor opposes Mr. Scalia because he fought the Clinton administration's ergonomics regulations, which Congress repealed earlier this year.
"The Democrats are saying 'We'll filibuster that nomination. We'll give you a vote, but you're going to have to have 60'" votes to overcome the filibuster, Mr. Nickles said.
Mr. Daschle also angered many Republicans by not allowing a vote on a bipartisan economic stimulus bill, which was passed by the House on Dec. 20, the day before Congress adjourned for its current recess.
The Democratic leader also has said Senate passage of either an economic stimulus bill or a measure that would open up a small portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling would require a supermajority of 60 votes, rather than a simple majority of 51 votes.
That outraged Republicans, who said they had lined up 53 votes to pass the compromise economic stimulus bill advanced by the House. They say they also have more than 50 votes to allow drilling in ANWR. On NBC, Mr. Daschle said he "absolutely" agrees with the democratic principle that "the majority should rule." But he qualified that support.
"In controversial issues, the Founding Fathers have said that it ought to take a supermajority to pass. The Republicans understand that. They were the ones that killed the economic stimulus package that we tried to offer in early December. They've killed the farm bill temporarily. We're going to revive it, of course, next year," he said.
Mr. Daschle said he "takes issue with the obstructionist charge," first leveled at him by Vice President Richard B. Cheney. "I don't refuse to allow votes. We're going to have votes on a lot of these issues but the Founding Fathers chose to ensure that there would be ample support for controversial measures before they pass. A 60-vote majority is something that should be achieved in these cases."
Asked whether he expects filibusters on both economic stimulus and oil drilling, the majority leader said, "There doesn't have to be a filibuster on the issue of economic stimulus. What we've got to do is work together, as we did on all the other issues related to the post-terrorist attack."
Mr. Nickles said the economy is "hurting" and that Congress needs to pass legislation to assist the unemployed and help small businesses by creating an environment that sparks job growth.
Pressed as to whether there will be an economic stimulus bill, Mr. Daschle said, "We can't simply be satisfied with the economic stimulus package in and of itself. That debate was really ideology versus experience. Republicans want to continue to press an ideology that has failed.
"What we want to do is go back and say, look we can't exacerbate the deficit, we can't exacerbate the long-term interest rates, we can't exacerbate the division between those who are the wealthiest and those who are at the other end of the economic spectrum. We've got to find a way to bring those issues back into balance," he added.
Mr. Nickles suggested Democrats will have a long way to go from the stimulus bill killed by Republicans. "That was a spending bill. Two-thirds of it was spending," he said.

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