McCain Deal Allows for 15 Bush Nominee Confirmations

Sen. John McCain on Thursday stopped blocking President Bush's judicial and other nominees after administration assurances that a campaign finance ally would be seated on the Federal Election Commission by the fall.

The Senate immediately confirmed 15 nominees, including four for the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The deal means that Democrat Ellen Weintraub will get a recess appointment by Bush to the FEC if the Senate has not confirmed her by the time the legislative session ends in October.

McCain, R-Ariz., agreed to end his holdup of Bush's nominees. Internal rules allow just one of the 100 senators to place a procedural hold on a nomination, making it very difficult for a nominee to get a vote.

McCain was "satisfied with the resolution," spokeswoman Nancy Ives said.

The senator has wanted Weintraub to replace lame-duck FEC Commissioner Karl Sandstrom as one of three Democratic members on the six-person commission. McCain, the longtime champion of overhauling campaign finance rules, views Sandstrom as hostile to the law that finally won passage this year.

Sandstrom, whose term expired last spring, sided with the three Republicans on a series of 4-2 votes on rules implementing the new law, which takes effect after this fall's elections.

McCain claimed they open up loopholes in a law designed to virtually eliminate unlimited donations that unions, corporations and wealthy individuals make to the political parties.

Weintraub will now replace Sandstrom on the commission after her background check is complete.

If her background check is not completed and she is not confirmed before the Senate leaves for the year, she will get a recess appointment from the White House. That would allow her to serve through the next session of Congress, in this case the end of next year.

Free of McCain's blocking, the Senate moved through several nominations to government agencies, including the SEC, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Senators also prepared to bring up several judicial nominations before leaving for their August break, possibly including U.S. Appeals Court nominee D. Brooks Smith of Pennsylvania.

The Senate has been forcing judicial nominations past McCain's blockade one at a time, but now that the way is clear, they expect action on more judges.