Bush bypassed the Senate today to a make a few recess appointments including installing former Navy Secretary Gordon R. England as deputy secretary of defense. Before joining the Bush administration in 2001, Gordon England was an executive at General Dynamics Corp. Chalk up another corporate cronies in Bush’s stable.
The Constitution allows that the president may circumvent the Senate confirmation process by making these recess appointments while the Senate is in recess. Recess appointments normally expire at the end of next congressional session. However, since the Senate held a pro forma session on Tuesday and then adjourned, the White House is contending that the second session of the 109th Congress has started and that makes Bush’s recess appointments are valid until the session ends at the end of 2007.
Bush used a similar maneuver to name a new spokesman for the Pentagon, campaign finance regulators and Amtrak directors. He named former ABC News producer, Dorrance Smith, as the new assistant secretary of defense for public affairs; and he appointed Hans von Spakovsky, a Justice Department lawyer who was the former Republican Party chairman in Fulton County, Ga. the Federal Election Commission.
On the Spakovsky appointment, Senator Ted Kennedy said, ““I’m troubled and disappointed by President Bush’s appointment of Hans von Spakovsky to the Federal Election Commission.”
“His record as Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights raises serious doubts about his commitment to upholding voting rights for all Americans — a commitment that is essential for anyone appointed to the Commission.
Recent reports show that partisan politics in the Civil Rights Division have tainted decisions under the Voting Rights Act. Mr. von Spakovsky participated in these cases, and he may be deeply involved in the political interference that is undermining enforcement of our civil rights laws.
By appointing von Spakovsky, the White House missed an opportunity to fill this important position with a person clearly committed to these fundamental rights.”
Bush also appointed Peter N. Kirsanow, of Ohio, to be a Member of the National Labor Relations Board. That also did not go over big with Senator Kennedy.
“I’m concerned by President Bush’s decision to bypass the Senate and give a recess appointment to Peter Kirsanow as a member of the National Labor Relations Board. I had made it clear that I was willing to work with the White House and Republicans to confirm a comprehensive package to fill all of the three existing vacancies on the Board.
Mr. Kirsanow’s record as a Member of the Commission on Civil Rights raises serious doubts about his fitness for high office and his commitment to fairness for all Americans.
He is an ardent foe of basic worker protections, including the minimum wage and prevailing wage laws, and is a vehement opponent of affirmative action. He has also suggested that the internment of Arab-Americans would be imminent in the event of another terrorist attack against the United States.
Bush reappointed two members of Amtrak’s board; Floyd Hall, a former Kmart Corp. chief executive, and Enrique Sosa, a former BP Amoco Chemicals president. Both will remain on the board through most of 2007. Hall and Sosa were appointed 2004 by Bush in similar recess appointments after the Senate failed to confirm them to five-year terms. It appears these two got a double recess. I wonder, will Amtrak start offering Blue Light specials in honor of Hall’s reappointment?
Also appointed was Julie L. Myers to head the Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau at the Department of Homeland Security. Myers, is a niece of the former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Richard B. Myers and the wife of the chief of staff to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. She has been criticized by both Republicans and Democrats who have charged that Myers lacked experience in immigration matters.
Myers’s nomination faced a bruising and potentially embarrassing fight on the Senate floor, where Democrats were prepared to argue that politics, not merit, drove her selection for an important job preventing terrorists and weapons from entering the country.
Two more choice appointments include, Tracy A. Henke as the executive director of the Office of State and Local Government Coordination and Preparedness and Ellen R. Sauerbrey as assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration.
Henke “had been accused in her politically appointed post at the Justice Department of demanding that information about racial disparities in police treatment of blacks in traffic cases be deleted from a news release.” Sauerbrey is a former Maryland Republican gubernatorial candidate and an opponent of abortion rights.