WASHINGTON – In a tit-for-tat move in the fight over federal nominees, Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott has announced plans to hold up on the nomination of a staffer for Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle.
Josh Adelstein, 39, has worked in the Senate for 14 years and served the last six as a legislative aide to Sen. Daschle. He is being tapped to serve on the Federal Communications Commission to replace Gloria Tristani, whose term expires in June 2003.
Lott, R-Miss., and Daschle D-S.D., previously had an "unofficial agreement" not to block nominations either personally supported. But Lott took to the Senate floor on Thursday night and made clear he took the Judiciary Committee veto of Judge Charles Pickering personally – calling it a "miscarriage of justice."
Lott expressed his disappointment Daschle refused to bring Pickering's nomination to the full Senate for a vote, despite his defeat in committee. So the previous arrangement they had on nominations is now, in Lott's words, "kaput." Lott went on to say that he did not think Adelstein was "really qualified" for the FCC.
Daschle quickly responded. "Unfortunately he's taking this out on a person completely uninvolved who had no role to play. For him [Adelstein] to be singled out is uncalled for. It's premature to take action on a nomination that hasn't even been sent up."
As to Lott's threat of tying up the Senate because of the ongoing fight over nominees, Daschle said: "You think they'd want our cooperation on moving nominations and other legislation. The threat could easily backfire and in many ways hurt their own agenda. People should calm down and think, before they throw something."
On a straight party-line vote, the Judiciary Committee on Thursday voted 10-9 to oppose the confirmation of District Court Judge Pickering to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. In a series of roll calls, the panel also snubbed Bush's request to allow a vote in the full Senate.
Pickering "deserves better than to be blocked by a party-line vote of ten senators on one committee," Bush said in a statement issued moments after the panel voted. "The voice of the entire Senate deserves to be heard."
There was little suspense about the committee's vote, but no shortage of emotion in the four-hour debate.
Pickering does not have "the temperament, the moderation or the commitment to core constitutional ... protections that is required for a life tenure position" on the appeals court, said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, one of an unbroken string of committee Democrats to argue against confirmation.
Republicans were equally united in their support of Pickering. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, argued Bush's nominee had been victimized by a smear campaign by liberal interest groups seeking to impose "an ideological litmus test" on abortion, civil rights and other issues.
Supporters and opponents of Pickering's confirmation filled the large committee room. Supporters wore pink badges that said "Stop the Bickering, Confirm Pickering."