- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 31, 2001

The Senate is shirking its duty to approve key presidential nominees to lead the charge in the war against terrorism, a leading Republican said yesterday.
President Clinton's appointees were approved within eight months, but at the current speed it will take at least a year to confirm Bush administration nominees, said Sen. Fred Thompson, Tennessee Republican and ranking member of the Government Affairs Committee.
That means President Bush will serve one-quarter of his term without his team in place.
"Now that may just be political fun and games until we get to a situation that we have here now, but we see it has national security implications, and we all must do a better job," Mr. Thompson said.
Positions that remain unconfirmed include undersecretaries of the Air Force and Army, assistant to the secretary of defense for nuclear and chemical and biological defense programs, assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration and two positions at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, deputy director and associate director.
Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat and chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, said he is also concerned about the delay and is exploring a legislative solution with Mr. Thompson.
"Every part of the system is to blame," Mr. Lieberman said.
In some cases, the holdup is excessive pre-screening or late nominees from the administration, Mr. Lieberman said.
"We want to approve them quickly, but we want to make sure they are qualified to serve in the United States," said Sen. Robert G. Torricelli, New Jersey Democrat.
The Senate has confirmed 102 positions, but 14 nominations and 11 announced nominations are outstanding. Additionally, there are 17 holdovers from the Clinton administration and Mr. Bush has yet to name appointments for 20 positions, according to the Presidential Appointee Commission established by the Brookings Institution.
"It's important that the administration get these names up here and that Congress react to them promptly," Mr. Thompson said.
Sen. Susan Collins, Maine Republican, said it must be a top priority for the Senate to approve essential nominees.
"It is critical to get the nominees through the process to assist and lead in the fight against terrorism," Miss Collins said.
Americans express an increased confidence in presidential appointees since the September 11 terrorist attacks, exceeding confidence in elected members of Congress, according to a poll by the Brookings Institution's Presidential Appointee Initiative.
The nationwide survey compares results from an identical July poll that found Americans were highly critical of appointees and the appointment process.
Seventy-nine percent of Americans now have a very favorable or somewhat favorable view of presidential appointees, up nearly 20 percent. Forty-two percent of Americans now say they would strongly encourage a close friend who is successful in business to take a presidential appointment, up from 30 percent.
"This report shows that Americans clearly believe that presidential appointees play a critical role in government, particularly during the current terrorist crisis," said Paul C. Light, senior adviser to the Presidential Appointee Initiative.
"Americans turn to the federal government in times of crisis because its very purpose is to solve broad, complex problems that the private sector cannot," Mr. Light said.

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