- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Two members of Congress urged President Bush yesterday to renominate former Ambassador Otto Reich as assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, a position that deals largely with Latin America.
"Ambassador Reich is a superb public servant who has carried out your policies toward Latin America with expertise, effectiveness and loyalty," Reps. Illeana Ros-Lehtinen and Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Florida Republicans said in a letter to the president.
Democrats who controlled the Senate last year did not allow a hearing for Mr. Reich's nomination, so Mr. Bush circumvented the Senate and made a recess appointment, allowing Mr. Reich to serve in the position since January. Because it was a recess appointment, however, Mr. Reich had to step down when the 107th Congress adjourned on Nov. 22.
Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen and Mr. Diaz-Balart want the president to renominate Mr. Reich for the position as soon as the new Congress convenes in January. The two Cuban-American lawmakers plan to hold a press conference with Hispanic and Latin-American groups Monday.
In the letter, the two lawmakers say they were told by White House staff that the administration intends to resubmit Mr. Reich's name to the Senate when Congress reconvenes. But the two also cite press reports stating that the White House and State Department would not comment on the matter.
"Mr. President, it is very important that you state your intention to resubmit Ambassador Reich's name as soon as possible, and that Ambassador Reich's name be resubmitted to the Senate at the earliest possible date," the letter reads.
White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan would not comment on the possibility of renominating Mr. Reich but would only say that the president has "named him as a special envoy to the Western Hemisphere."
Mr. Reich moved out of his office Friday and Curt Struble is the acting assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Monday.
As a special envoy, Mr. Reich will "continue to have substantial responsibility in developing U.S. policies in the hemisphere, he'll continue to advise the secretary of state", and he will "continue to represent the United States in the region," Mr. Boucher said.
Sen. Christopher J. Dodd was a strong opponent of Mr. Reich's original nomination. In a letter to the editor in the Wall Street Journal in October 2001, Mr. Dodd said Mr. Reich was "not qualified for the post." He also said Mr. Reich "lacks good management skills, sound judgment, appropriate sensitivity to potential conflicts of interest, the confidence of other governments in the region, and the ability to bridge partisan divisions in the Congress ."
A Dodd spokesman said the Connecticut Democrat's feelings have not changed.
"Mr. Reich is still the wrong man for the job, and Senator Dodd continues to oppose his appointment," said Mr. Dodd's spokesman, Marvin Fast, on Nov. 19. "We would hope the president would select a nominee with bipartisan support, which clearly Mr. Reich doesn't have. Senator Dodd will decide what action he will take once the administration announces its plans."
Mr. Dodd has been chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Peace Corps and narcotics affairs a post he will relinquish when Republicans take over the Senate in January.
A Republican Senate aide said Mr. Reich is "anti-Castro. He's fairly to the right on some of these issues; he falls in with the Ronald Reagan agenda and [Democrats] just thought he was not the right person."
Sen. Richard G. Lugar, Indiana Republican, will take over the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which would consider Mr. Reich's nomination.
"Senator Lugar has said that if Otto Reich is renominated he would do a hearing and have a vote that's his position in terms of any nominee," said Lugar spokesman Andy Fisher.
In their letter, Mrs. Ros Lehtinen and Mr. Diaz-Balart said Mr. Reich this year has been instrumental in forging a strong working relationship with the new government in Columbia, has successfully promoted the administration's anti-corruption campaign throughout the region, has implemented the administration's policy that Cuban government behavior must change before the United States modifies its policy, and had a successful meeting with President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva of Brazil.
Among other things, Mr. Reich has served as ambassador to Venezuela.


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