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Archive for Saturday, March 30, 2002

Bush bypasses Senate on political appointments

March 30, 2002

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— Two days after signing a new law restricting campaign donations, President Bush bypassed Congress to install one of the law's Republican critics to enforce it. He also named a vocal critic of affirmative action as civil rights chief at the Education Department.

Bush installed the two officials and three others as recess appointments, avoiding Senate confirmation by putting them in their jobs while Congress was on a break. Such appointments are valid through the next session of Congress, in this case the end of next year.

Michael E. Toner, the Republican National Committee's top lawyer, was named to the Federal Election Commission, a six-member panel that enforces campaign finance laws. He succeeds fellow Republican Darryl Wold, whose term expired last April.

The RNC opposed the ban on unlimited contributions in the bill that Bush reluctantly signed Wednesday.

Speaking in July about the bill, Toner told The Associated Press: "Democrats are driving legislation that will put a stake through the heart of grass-roots and voter education initiatives."

In an interview Friday, he said he will fairly enforce the law, which is being challenged in court. The Republican Party is not among the groups that have sued to block the law.

Bush also used his recess appointment power to install Gerald Reynolds as assistant secretary of education for civil rights, prompting similar criticism that Reynolds will not promote laws he opposes.

Reynolds has criticized affirmative action and has worked for or been affiliated with organizations opposed to such assistance for women and minorities.

In a 1997 Washington Times essay he co-authored, Reynolds criticized the "civil rights industry" and called affirmative action "a corrupt system of preferences, set-asides and quotas."

More than two dozen groups opposed his nomination, including the American Association of People with Disabilities, the National Organization for Women, the NAACP and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, an umbrella organization for dozens of civil rights groups.

The president has complained frequently about the Senate's pace in confirming his nominations, and on Friday he issued five "recess appointments," bringing his total for the year to 14.

The other three appointees: Dennis L. Schornack as commissioner and chairman of the International Joint Commission for the United States and Canada, Emil H. Frankel as assistant secretary of transportation for transportation policy and Jeffrey Shane as associate deputy secretary of transportation.

Each was nominated "to fill a critical position in the administration that can no longer go unoccupied," said White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe.

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