Battle Over Lee Could Escalate With Recess Appointment (CQ, 12/1/97)
White House Nears Decision On Lee
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Dec. 8) -- President Bill Clinton continues to weigh his options on whether or not to appoint Bill Lann Lee as head of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department before Congress reconvenes.
While it was expected that the White House would make the appointment this week, the move is now being delayed in hopes of convincing the Senate to hold a floor vote.
White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry said that abandoning the nomination was "not an option" for the president.
McCurry refused to rule out a recess appointment despite fresh warnings from congressional Republicans that it would be a political declaration of war. "Clearly there would be some price to pay for a recess appointment, and we prefer to do things by regular order because that's what the nominee deserves," he said.
Republican lawmakers in both houses of Congress oppose Lee's nomination, arguing the well-known supporter of affirmative action would defy recent court rulings which contend such programs violate the Constitution.
In a letter sent to Clinton Saturday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch urged the president not to appoint Lee during the congressional recess. "I would like to ... urge that you not make such an appointment," Hatch wrote Clinton. "Mr. Lee's nomination lacks the 10 votes [in the committee] required by Senate rules. In my view, the committee has spoken."
An unidentified senior White House official quoted by U.S. News & World Report says that a negative reaction from GOP leaders to the appointment compounded by the allegedly anti-Asian tone of congressional fund-raising investigations would cause "a double whammy for Asian Americans from Republicans" that would work to Clinton's advantage.
A recess appointment must be made before Congress reconvenes Jan. 27. Such an appointment would generally mean serving until the end of that session and the following year. Republicans in Congress passed a statute that effectively serves to block a portion of that time, meaning Lee would serve until the next Congress convenes in January 1999.
In Other News:
Monday Dec. 8, 1997
Justice Staffers Cheer Bill Lann Lee
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