The White House has repeatedly blamed Congress for the large number of executive vacancies, even though President Bush continues to nominate controversial figures who generate bipartisan opposition. Last month, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino charged:
And in addition to that, we have many outstanding nominations that need to be confirmed, both judicial and also throughout the government. And it really is unfortunate that Congress has not moved forward on its obligation to have hearings and to hold votes, because the president has nominated very good people.
One of the most controversial figures is Steven Bradbury, Bush’s nominee to the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. In 2005, Bradbury authored two secret memos authorizing the CIA to use harsh interrogation techniques against detainees.
Yesterday on the Senate floor, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) revealed that much of the blame for these stalled nominees lies with the President’s insistence that the torture advocate receive a recess appointment.
According to Reid, in December, he met with the White House and agreed to allow more than 84 of the President’s nominees to go through. Bush, however, insisted that unless the Senate agreed to Bradbury’s recess appointment, “he wouldn’t make a deal.” “It’s Brabury, or nobody,” Bush reportedly told Reid. Watch it:
Today, Bush plans to meet with some of these pending nominees, “reigniting a fight over their appointments.” It’s likely that Bradbury will receive the seat of honor.
REID: I say that because of all the nominees the President will profess to care about at this breakfast, Steven Bradbury stands head and shoulders above all the others in the President’s esteem. I’m not guessing; I was told so by the White House.
Mr. President, right before the Christmas recess, I called the President’s chief of staff, Mr. Bolton — wonderful man, I like him, easy to talk to, easy to deal with. And I said, I’ll tell you what, Josh. We’re going to go into recess, and why don’t we have an agreement on who the President wants to have recess appoints, and in fact, I’ll give you some suggestions. You can have a member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governments, a member of the Federal Aviation Agency, you can have the couple of other Chemical Safety Board members. And I said not only that, there are 84 other Republican nominees we’ll approve. There are 8 Democrats, 84 Republicans — pretty good deal. He said, “Let me check.”
He called me back and he said, “Well, what we want is to have a recess appointment of Steven Bradbury.” I said, “Josh, I don’t know who he is. Let me check.” I checked with Chairman Leahy, I checked with Senator Durbin, who’s a member of that committee, I checked with Senator Schumer, who’s on that committee. And they and others said, “You got to be kidding.” This is a man who’s written memos approving torture, and that’s only the beginning. Senator Durbin, if he has time today, will lay that out in more detail.
So I called Josh back and I said, “Josh, that man will never get approved, he just has not credibility.” He said, “We’ll look with the President.” He called me back and said, “It’s Bradbury or nobody.” I said, “You mean you’re willing to not allow 84 of your people get approved because of this guy?” He said, “Yeah, that’s what the President wants.”