New Belgium Ambassador Sam Fox Will Not Be Paid, White House Says

The controversial Republican fundraiser who was appointed late Wednesday by President Bush as the U.S. ambassador to Belgium will not be paid because of rules governing recess appointments, the White House said Thursday.

Democrats had opposed the nomination of Sam Fox, a political fundraiser who also donated to the controversial Swift Boat Veterans for Truth advertising campaign that targeted Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., in the 2004 presidential campaign.

In the face of the opposition, Bush last month withdrew Fox's nomination. Under rules that allow him to do so, Bush appointed Fox as ambassador during the congressional Easter recess. Recess appointments allow the appointee to remain in office until the end of the current congressional session — or in this case until the end of the Bush's term. Fox otherwise would have faced stiff opposition during the Senate confirmation process.

But a separate set of rules dictates whether those appointed under recess appointments can be paid.

White House officials said Thursday that the Pay Act requires a nomination to be pending at the time of the appointment, or the vacancy had to have occurred in the last 30 days. Fox did not meet those requirements.

The appointment remained a sore point for Democrats Thursday.

Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware issued a scathing statement, saying the president's actions are "a clear abuse of the president's recess appointment power."

"We've been working in good faith on the President's nominees and his recess appointment of Sam Fox flies in the face of this bipartisan cooperation," Biden said.

But members of the administration said that Fox was a well-qualified candidate who otherwise would have been kept from the job by partisan Democrats.

"I think it was clear that people were putting the politics over the policy of needing to get an ambassador into Brussels. And so the president took his action there to get our ambassador in place. ... The bottom line is, he's qualified for the position, the position needed to be filled," said White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe, speaking with reporters in Crawford, Texas.

Vice President Dick Cheney, speaking with radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh, also backed the move.

"He'll do a superb job as our ambassador to Belgium. I was delighted when the president made the recess appointment. He clearly has that authority under the Constitution. And you're right, John Kerry basically shot it down," Cheney said.