WASHINGTON – Senate Democrats are threatening to block President Bush's nominee for housing secretary to protest White House appointments of federal judges while Congress is out of session.
Alphonso Jackson's (search) nomination to lead the Housing and Urban Development (search) Department may face the same kind of opposition on the Senate floor as other administration nominees, aides to Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle said Wednesday.
The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee on Tuesday voted unanimously to elevate Jackson, who was the agency's top deputy over the past three years. The nomination was sent to the full Senate for approval.
Daschle, D-S.D., last week threatened to hold up judicial nominations after Bush temporarily put Mississippi judge Charles Pickering and Alabama Attorney General William Pryor on federal appeals courts while the Senate was in recess earlier this year.
Democrats also contend the White House is refusing to appoint Democratic nominees to fill their vacancies on federal boards and commissions, many of which require bipartisan membership.
Daschle's office on Wednesday said Democratic threats extended to all federal nominees requiring Senate approval, including Jackson.
The Constitution (search) gives the president the authority to place nominees on the bench temporarily when Congress is out of town, Republicans say. They argue that Bush would not have to use recess appointments if Democrats stopped blocking the nominees in the first place.
"It's inexcusable for Senator Daschle and a minority of Senate Democrats to play politics with important high-level positions," White House spokeswoman Erin Healy said Wednesday. "Government cannot be as responsive as it needs to be when they obstruct the nomination process."
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, called Jackson a highly qualified candidate who would get overwhelming bipartisan support. But, Cornyn said Wednesday, Jackson "has joined a growing list of the president's nominees held hostage in the Senate to petty partisan games."
Jackson is a Bush friend who has led public housing authorities in Dallas, Washington and St. Louis. He has served as acting secretary since December, when Mel Martinez (search) stepped down to run for the Senate from Florida.
Jackson had already overcome one Senate roadblock.
Sen. Wayne Allard, chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs subcommittee on housing and transportation, had opposed the nomination because of a HUD proposal to overhaul mortgage settlements (search). The department withdrew the plan last week. Jackson denied it was an attempt to appease Allard, R-Colo.