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By ANNE FLAHERTY
Democrats called for an investigation Thursday into whether President Bush acted illegally in appointing Sam Fox ambassador to Belgium.
A day earlier, Bush named Republican fundraiser Fox to the post as a recess appointment â€” a maneuver that allowed him to bypass Congress, where Democrats had derailed his nomination.
"We view the recess appointment of Mr. Fox as a clear abuse of the President’s recess appointment power," three Democratic senators wrote in a letter to the Government Accountability Office, Congress’ auditing agency.
The senators â€” Democrats Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, John Kerry of Massachusetts and Robert Casey of Pennsylvania â€” also asked if Fox’s appointment could be terminated if a Senate vote rejected him.
Democrats have denounced Fox for his donation to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth during the 2004 presidential campaign. The group’s TV ads, which claimed that Sen. John Kerry exaggerated his military record in Vietnam, were viewed as a factor in the Massachusetts Democrat’s election loss.
Recognizing Fox did not have enough support for Senate confirmation, Bush withdrew the nomination last week. On Wednesday, with the Senate on a one-week break, the president used his power to make recess appointments to put Fox in the job without Congress’ blessing.
Dodd said in a statement that Bush’s actions were "deceptive at best and illegal at worst."
White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe defended the use of recess appointments as a presidential prerogative.
"I think the president views recess appointments as an appropriate way to get people who are qualified into jobs that need to be filled," Johndroe said Thursday.
"And it’s a process that’s been used many times over the years for people whose nominations have lingered or have been stopped for various reasons," he said.
Associated Press Writer Ben Feller contributed to this report.
Copyright Â© 2007 The Associated Press