The White House and Senate Democratic leaders renewed their battle over stalled nominees Wednesday, with the administration saying Democrats are using their opposition to one Justice Department appointment to leave more than 200 positions unfilled.
Democrats fired back that the GOP's insistence that certain nominees be confirmed despite serious objections was leading to the stalemate. At the center of the dispute are former Justice Department official Hans von Spakovsky, who was nominated to the FEC, and Stephen Bradbury, President Bush's choice for assistant attorney general. Democrats have objected to both nominations.
In a war of words Wednesday, the White House focused mostly on Bradbury, while Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., took aim at von Spakovsky.
"It seems to me that the Senate only cares about one nominee because they are willing to not fill over 200 positions in the federal government over the one position that they claim to have a problem with," White House spokesman Tony Fratto said, referring to Bradbury. Fratto called Bradbury an "incredible person, an incredible lawyer." Democrats have objected to his nomination because of memos he wrote authorizing questionable interrogation tactics for suspected terrorists.
Reid countered by suggesting that Republicans wanted the FEC stalemate to continue so the watchdog agency wouldn't be able to be effective in what is shaping up to be a tough election year for Republicans.
"I can gather one thing from the president's unwillingness to resolve the FEC problem," Reid said. "And that is that Republicans would rather have no election watchdog in place during an election year where they are not favored to win."
With van Spakovsky and three other nominees to the FEC hung up in the Senate, the commission has only two members and is unable to conduct most of its business. Democrats want to vote separately on the nominees -- two Republicans and two Democrats -- but Republicans maintain that Senate tradition requires a vote on the four as a package.
Bush apparently intends to keep the focus on the stalled nominees Thursday. Reid said one of the Democratic FEC nominees, Steve Walther, had been invited to a White House breakfast for all nominees whose confirmations are on hold.
"The effort it took to invite my Democratic friends and other nominees to the White House is truly a waste," Reid said. "The president's Thursday breakfast really only needed one attendee. That's because only one nominee really matters to the president. It should really just be an intimate breakfast between the president and Steven Bradbury."