Thursday, December 20, 2007

Reid Blocks Recess Appointments for FEC

For all the many things Senator Harry Reid has gotten wrong lately, one thing he has consistently done well as majority leader of the Senate is blocking Bush's insidious recess appointments. Today, once again, Reid made the decision to keep a pro forma Senate session during the holidays. This decision will prevent Bush from appointing his designees to the FEC during the holiday break.

And that's good news and bad news.

Good news, because one of those candidates to the FEC (Federal Election Commission) was Hans von Spakovsky. von Spakovsky was a controversial candidate to the post of the FEC because of his past tenure at the Civil Rights Division. After his appointment to the Civil Rights Division, also made during a recess appointment, he was accused by fellow members of the Justice Department of de-emphasizing protection of minority voters in favor of pushing the bogeyman of voter fraud. During his tenure, his push for voter ID laws came over the objections of career civil attorneys in the agency, and sparked the resignations of half the staff.

Bad news because the alternative is to shut down the FEC.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) just announced that the Senate will not clear four new appointees for the Federal Election Commission, meaning the panel that acts as a watchdog on political campaigns cannot function during the critical election-year period.

Reid pursued a strategy to get the administration to agree to send its other nominees to the Senate for approval, without von Spakovsky. Predictably, Bush threw a tantrum and refused to negotiate.

The Senate's inaction means that recess appointments for three of the nominees, including von Spakovsky, will expire at year's end. Unless some of those commissioners choose to work without pay, the six-member commission will be left with only two members, Republican holdover David Mason and Democrat Ellen Weintraub.

With only two members, there will not even be enough commissioners to hold a vote. So if the Bushies can't have their crony von Spakovsky placing his thumb on the scale of justice, they will force the shutdown of the commission responsible for compliance with federal campaign finance laws. For the Rethugs, its a win-win.

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