- The Washington Times - Monday, January 21, 2002

Senate Democrats are careful to voice public support for President Bush in the war against terrorism, but they are quietly blocking key nominations such as ambassador to the Philippines, the newest front in that war.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat, put a blanket "hold" on Bush nominees just before Congress adjourned Dec. 20 in a dispute about funding for Amtrak.
His action is preventing career diplomat Francis Ricciardone Jr. from taking over as U.S. ambassador in Manila. U.S. Special Forces landed in the Philippines last week to help root out terrorists believed to be affiliated with Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network.
Among other Bush nominations being blocked are U.S. ambassador to Venezuela, an important non-Middle Eastern source of oil, and three candidates for posts at the U.S. Agency for International Development, which provides humanitarian relief.
"They've blocked the foreign policy team," a Bush administration official said of Senate Democrats. "They'll say they are supporting the war on terrorism, but their tentacles are into this."
Biden spokeswoman Lynn Weil said the senator "feels that the administration ought to be dealing with train safety," as well as airport security and other transportation safety issues that Congress has addressed.
She said Mr. Biden placed a hold on nominees at the end of the last session but didn't know if he would renew his objections when Congress returns this week.
Democrats have employed a political strategy of publicly supporting Mr. Bush in the war and fighting him on domestic policy. Democrats including Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota recently have praised the president's war effort in high-profile speeches.
After Mr. Bush made recess appointments last week for Assistant Secretary of State Otto Reich and Labor Department Solicitor Eugene Scalia, Mr. Biden warned that Democrats were planning to retaliate "with regard to the rest of his nominations."
"This was not a, respectfully speaking, smart thing to do," Mr. Biden said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, said the Senate should end any delaying tactics on nominees when lawmakers return Wednesday.
"While our armed forces are in harm's way fighting terrorism abroad, it is only common sense that when the Senate returns, it should immediately confirm ambassadors to officially represent American interests in those countries," Mr. Lott said.
Other unfilled administration posts include Everett Beckner for deputy administrator for defense programs at the National Nuclear Security Administration and Arthur Dewey for assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration, who would oversee refugees in Afghanistan.
A month ago, Mr. Biden took to the Senate floor to urge other nations to help the United States fight terrorism.
"If we have learned anything about foreign policy since September 11, it is that global leadership and multilateral cooperation are essential to combating the terrorist networks," Mr. Biden said. "If we want al Qaeda cells to be investigated and arrested, we need our foreign partners to join us in the effort."
The Philippine military has deployed thousands of soldiers in the southern Sulu islands to fight Abu Sayyaf, a Muslim group that has been linked to al Qaeda. The group holds three hostages, including American missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham.
The White House sent Mr. Ricciardone's nomination to the Senate on Nov. 27. The Foreign Relations Committee reported out the nomination Dec. 12. But no floor vote was taken before Congress adjourned, and Mr. Biden and others, including Sen. Tom Harkin, Iowa Democrat, placed holds on nominees.
Miss Weil said: "Obviously, it's better to have an ambassador in place," but U.S.-Philippine relations have remained good in the interim.
She also said Mr. Bush did not name a candidate for ambassador to the Philippines until 11 months into his term.
Mr. Ricciardone told the Foreign Relations Committee last month that he hopes "to enhance our cooperation to hasten the success of the Philippine armed forces, government and civil society in defeating terrorism."
The nominee for ambassador to Venezuela, Charles Shapiro, told lawmakers, "one of my top priorities will be to develop specific proposals whereby we invite Venezuela to join with the international community in fighting global terrorism."
"Since September 11, we have had increased cooperation from the government of Venezuela on terrorist-related law enforcement actions," Mr. Shapiro said.

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