Washington — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has removed one hurdle blocking President Bush's nomination of Kansan Steve Williams to head the agency.
While Williams' path is not completely clear, Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts is "optimistic that this nominee will be confirmed," the GOP senator's chief of staff said Tuesday.
The appointment of Williams, currently Kansas secretary of Wildlife and Parks, stalled when it became a bargaining chip in a conflict between southern and northern lawmakers over the length of duck-hunting season.
Prodding from Mississippi Republican Sen. Trent Lott, the Senate minority leader, and other southern lawmakers helped convince the Fish and Wildlife Service last month to propose an extension of the duck hunting season from 51 to 60 days in six southern states.
Northerners objected, and Minnesota Democratic Sen. Mark Dayton blocked votes in the Democrat-controlled Senate on the nominations of Williams and Craig Manson, Bush's pick for Department of Interior assistant secretary for fish and wildlife. Dayton used a procedural "hold," a Senate tactic that can stall any nomination or legislation.
Now Dayton will drop his hold, his spokeswoman said. But a similar dispute has prompted another Democratic senator, Florida's Bob Graham, to place his own hold on Williams' nomination. Graham wants the Interior Department to reopen a West Palm Beach office to oversee restoration of the Everglades.
For now, Williams remains at the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. His successor, former Gov. Mike Hayden, is already on the job and drawing the same salary.