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Anonymous Republican Senator Places Hold On Top Justice Department Nominees

The Bush administration has repeatedly attacked the Democratic Congress for stalling on the President’s executive nominees. In January, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said it was unfortunate the Democratic leadership “has not moved forward on its obligation to have hearings and to hold votes.” Last month, Bush said the Senate is treating his nominees as “political pawns.”

Yet as Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) revealed in a letter to Bush on Thursday, an anonymous Republican is now actually holding up two of the President’s top Justice Department nominees. From Leahy’s letter:

I regret to inform you that we were stalled last week in our efforts to fill two other critical positions at the Department, when an anonymous Republican hold blocked confirmation of Kevin O’Connor to be the Associate Attorney General, and Gregory Katsas to be the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Civil Division. I was particularly disappointed with this unexpected development. … They were set for confirmation before the Easter recess, until the last-minute Republican objection stalled them.

The longest-stalled nominee is Michael Sullivan, Bush’s choice to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). He, in fact, is being blocked by conservative “gun-rights champions” — including Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) — who believe the ATF has been overzealous in enforcing requirements that dealers keep detailed gun-sale records.”

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So far, however, the White House has refused to criticize these conservatives blocking the President’s nominees, instead continuing to attack Democrats. But in reality, Bush has had 90 percent of his nominations confirmed to lifetime appointments — far better than President Clinton fared.

In addition to congressional conservatives, Bush is also responsible for the hold-up on many of his nominees. In December, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) 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 torture advocate Steven Bradbury’s recess appointment, “he wouldn’t make a deal.” “It’s Brabury, or nobody,” said Bush.