- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 12, 2002

President Bush yesterday signed recess appointments for Eugene Scalia and Otto Reich, both of whom had been blocked by Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and other liberal Democrats.
"The Senate has failed to exercise its role to advise and consent," said White House spokeswoman Anne Womack. "The president was left with no other option but to exercise his constitutional right to appoint them during the recess."
The action allows Mr. Scalia to serve as solicitor of the Labor Department and Mr. Reich to serve as assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs until Congress adjourns at the end of the year.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, called Mr. Bush's action "regrettable."
"Senate Democrats had said repeatedly that Mr. Scalia would get a full vote in the Senate," Mr. Daschle said. "We also said it appeared that Mr. Scalia's record of hostility toward worker protections would have made his confirmation unlikely."
The White House will continue to push for Senate confirmation of both men, which would keep them in office for the duration of the Bush administration.
But some Democrats doubt that will happen. Sen Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut said yesterday Mr. Reich will become "a lame duck as soon as he takes the position."
Mr. Dodd is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which has refused to grant a hearing to Mr. Reich, who was confirmed twice for diplomatic posts in previous administrations. Liberal Democrats are still bitter over Mr. Reich's support of ant-Marxist "Contra" rebels in Nicaragua in the 1980s and his support of the U.S. embargo on Cuba.
"There are many difficulties in the region, and it is unfortunate that U.S. foreign policy in the region is being sacrificed for a narrow domestic political agenda," Mr. Dodd said.
Mr. Scalia was granted a hearing and was approved by the Democrat-controlled Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which is chaired by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. But Mr. Daschle, in a highly unusual move, refused to allow a floor vote.
"I continue to believe that Mr. Scalia is not the right person for this important Labor Department position," Mr. Kennedy said yesterday, adding that he "regretted" the president's action. "His record and experience do not reflect a commitment to the rights of American workers."
The Massachusetts Democrat said Mr. Scalia has dismissed studies on ergonomics that contend that workers can suffer injuries on the job from repetitive motions. The Clinton administration imposed new ergonomics regulations as one of its last acts in office, but Congress repealed the regulations soon after Mr. Bush became president.
Republicans contend Mr. Scalia was being punished for the vote of his father, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, in the landmark Bush v. Gore case that ended the Florida recount wars. The elder Mr. Scalia was among seven justices who concluded that the hand recounts demanded by former Vice President Al Gore in selected Democratic counties were unconstitutional.
Mr. Bush had been especially frustrated over the Scalia nomination because a majority of senators supported the president's pick. When it became apparent that Mr. Scalia would garner at least 51 votes needed for confirmation, Mr. Daschle announced that 60 votes would be required to overcome an expected Democratic filibuster.
Republicans enlisted the support of several additional Democrats and called for a floor vote before the Senate recessed late last month, saying it was possible Mr. Scalia would get the 60 votes. But Mr. Daschle still refused.
"If they wanted to vote them down, vote them down," a senior White House official said yesterday. "But let them go through a fair process. Give them a hearing and vote on them."
Sen. Christopher S. Bond, Missouri Republican, applauded Mr. Bush's decision to use a recess appointment for Mr. Scalia. He said a fair confirmation vote in the Senate was unlikely.
"Faced with a pitched partisan confirmation battle in the Senate, putting Eugene Scalia in place as a recess appointment is the president's only option," Mr Bond said in a prepared statement.
AFL-CIO President John Sweeney called the recess appointment of Mr. Scalia "a slap in the face of American workers."
Sen. Don Nickles, Oklahoma Republican and assistant minority leader, said Mr. Bush was "absolutely justified" in making both recess appointments.
"While I'm disappointed the Senate confirmation process broke down this year, both Otto Reich and Eugene Scalia are excellent nominees," he said. "I'm confident they would have been confirmed if they had been allowed to have straight up-or-down votes."
Bush officials had been saying for days that the recess appointments were imminent. Early yesterday afternoon, the White House gave formal notification to the Senate.
When Congress reconvenes later this month, the administration plans to push hard for confirmation of scores of additional nominees. The Senate last year confirmed just 28 of the president's judicial nominees, or 43 percent the lowest rate for the first year of the past four administrations.
In addition, there are numerous nonjudicial nominees, including many who are considered crucial to prosecuting the war on terrorism, that have languished in the Democrat-controlled Senate.
"There are almost 20 nominees that are before the Foreign Relations Committee that they have failed to act on," said a senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
"We are going to be focusing on the fact that the Senate has failed to act on almost 170 of the president's nominations," the official said. "We have put up nominations at a record pace both judicial nominations and just general administration positions and we fully expect the Senate to act on those. That is their role."

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