Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., accused the Clinton Administration of using a technicality to extend the appointment of James King as director of the Office of Personnel Management, bypassing the Senate confirmation process.
The president extended King's appointment through the end of this congressional session by using a "recess appointment," which is generally used when the Senate fails to act on a nomination. In a statement released yesterday, Thompson, who heads the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, which oversees OPM, characterized the move as a "deliberate action by this White House to avoid the Senate's constitutional role."
Clinton sent King's renomination to the Senate on March 6, a month before King's four-year term as OPM director was set to run out. Unlike many high-level Administration officials, the OPM director is appointed for a four-year term. Thompson said in his statement that his committee had been moving King's nomination forward, but the two-week spring recess delayed the process. Paul Clark, a Thompson spokesman, said the administration should not have "waited until the last minute" to send King's nomination to Capitol Hill.
"The administration basically said, 'We're not going to give you time,'" Clark said.
OPM spokeswoman Rosalie Cameron said yesterday that if the president hadn't made the recess appointment, OPM would have been left with no director or deputy director. The latter slot has been vacant since January.
"With no deputy director in place, the administration was properly concerned about the continuity of leadership on the essential functions and activities of OPM," Cameron said. "The recess appointment was not intended to supplant the authority of the committee, or in any way to avoid the scrutiny and consent of the Senate."
Clark said the administration could have waited a few days for the Senate to complete King's confirmation.
The Governmental Affairs Committee will wait until King's recess appointment runs out after this session to consider his official confirmation.
"Next year the committee will determine whether to move ahead with Mr. King's confirmation to the term appointment. I hope he has a good year," Thompson said.