Sen. Ensign Works to Block Coast Guard Nominee

Republican Sen. John Ensign of Nevada, a former veterinarian who criticized pet evacuation efforts after Hurricane Katrina, is blocking the promotion of a Coast Guard vice admiral who headed the hurricane recovery.

President Bush nominated Vice Adm. Thad W. Allen to be commandant of the Coast Guard in January. It was approved on a voice vote last week by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

Allen was put in charge of Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts in September after the Bush administration pulled then-FEMA director Michael Brown off the job.

Jack Finn, a spokesman for Ensign, refused Monday to say why the senator is blocking Allen's confirmation by the full Senate.

"We have some questions we want to have answered and we anticipate having them answered before too long," Finn said.

Ensign visited the Gulf Coast in late September, a month after Katrina hit, and met with Allen to press him to better coordinate animal rescue efforts. He said that in addition to concerns about the animals' welfare, abandoned pets could cause a public health risk.

Under Senate procedures, any senator can block a vote on a confirmation or a piece of legislation by raising an objection. That objection can be overcome with 60 votes in the 100-member Senate.