White House Nears Decision On Lee (12/8/97)
Hatch Says Lee's Nomination Dead (11/14/97)
Dems Block Vote On Lee Nomination (11/13/97)
Clinton Plans Recess Appointment Of Lee
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Dec. 12) -- President Clinton will give Bill Lann Lee a recess appointment as the nation's civil rights chief, probably at a news conference scheduled for Tuesday, unless the Senate agrees to a floor vote on his nomination, White House officials say.
Appearing on NBC's "Today" show this morning, Lee said he would seriously consider such an appointment. "I'd have to look at it," Lee said. "If the president asked me, I would take a real hard look at it."
Lee's nomination stalled in the Senate last month when Republicans objected to his views on affirmative action. In a parliamentary move, Democrats blocked a vote Nov. 13 rather than see Lee rejected in committee. But Clinton has the power to make an interim appointment when Congress is out of session.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, who led the opposition to Lee, has said a recess appointment would be "a serious mistake."
Lee told The Associated Press this week his opponents should simply judge his qualifications for the job, which is enforcing the nation's civil rights laws.
"I've been a civil rights lawyer for 23 years," Lee said. "No one would question my qualifications. Many people have had kind things to say about my qualifications."
Hatch, however, says he thinks Lee would try to enforce preferences and undermine the intent of federal law.
Clinton has brought Lee to several public events, making the case for his appointment over the last two weeks. White House officials say Lee is eminently qualified and has the support of most civil rights organizations throughout the country. They contend Republicans are using the nomination as a weapon in a fight over policy.
"Our point is nomination fights should not be surrogates for disagreements on policy issues like affirmative action, which is the case here," said White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry.
Republican senators have said a recess appointment would provoke a political fight with repercusions for other items on the president's legislative agenda.
To that, McCurry said, "It would be lame-brained and stupid for them to exact a lot of retaliation on the president."
In a recess appointment, Lee would serve with full authority in the civil rights job until Congress convenes in a new session in January 1999. He could be removed then by a vote of the full Senate.
CNN's Eileen O'Connor contributed to this report.
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Friday Dec. 12, 1997
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