Bush circumvents Senate with Pentagon appointments

President Bush on Wednesday bypassed the Senate to install former
Navy Secretary Gordon R. England as deputy secretary of defense, and
used a similar maneuver to name a new Pentagon spokesman, campaign
finance regulators and Amtrak directors.

In a highly unusual
arrangement, England had been serving as both Navy secretary and acting
deputy defense secretary since Paul Wolfowitz left the No. 2 Pentagon
post last May to become head of the World Bank. England’s nomination
for the deputy secretary position had stalled in the Senate.

the Constitution, the president may circumvent the confirmation process
by making appointments while the Senate is in recess. Such recess
appointments usually expire at the end of next congressional session.

the Senate held a pro forma session Tuesday and then adjourned, the
White House contends the second session of the 109th Congress has begun
and Bush’s recess appointments are valid until the following session
concludes at the end of 2007.

Bush also used this maneuver
Wednesday to name Dorrance Smith, a former ABC News producer, as
assistant secretary of defense for public affairs. That job has gone
unfilled since Victoria Clarke quit the post in June 2003. Lawrence Di
Rita, an aide close to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, was the
interim spokesman.

Bush had nominated England to be Rumsfeld’s
top deputy last April. Sens. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and Trent Lott,
R-Miss., had placed holds on the appointment, preventing the Senate
from considering it. At issue were shipbuilding concerns and
conflict-of-interest questions surrounding pensions England holds from
defense companies.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., had held up Smith’s
nomination in a dispute over a newspaper opinion article in which he
accused U.S. television networks of helping terrorists through their
partnerships with Arab broadcaster Al-Jazeera.

England resigned as Navy secretary on Dec. 29.

indicated several weeks ago that he would use a recess appointment to
install England as deputy secretary of defense. He used that maneuver
to fill a number of senior Pentagon posts in 2005, including Eric
Edelman as undersecretary of defense for policy.

Before joining the Bush administration in 2001, England was an executive at General Dynamics Corp.

the Federal Election Commission, Bush appointed Hans von Spakovsky, a
Justice Department lawyer who formerly was Republican Party chairman in
Fulton County, Ga.

Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., said von
Spakovsky had worked toward requiring Georgia voters to have a photo
identification _ a requirement that critics said would harm black

The president also appointed Robert Lenhard, who was part
of a legal team that challenged the constitutionality of the
McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, and Steven Walther, a lawyer with
ties to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Kennedy also
contended that von Spakovsky was involved in a decision that rejected a
recommendation of career Justice Department lawyers in a Texas
redistricting case.

Those lawyers had concluded that the
redistricting plan violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965 because it
eliminated several districts where minorities had substantial voting
power and illegally diluted black and Hispanic voting power.

FEC, an independent agency, has six commissioners who are appointed by
the president and confirmed by the Senate. By law, no more than three
commissioners can be members of the same political party.

Two members of Amtrak’s board won reappointment.

Hall, a former Kmart Corp. chief executive, and Enrique Sosa, a former
BP Amoco Chemicals president, will remain on the board through most of
2007. Hall and Sosa were appointed in 2004 by Bush after the Senate
failed to confirm them to five-year terms.

Amtrak’s board has
four members and three vacancies. The other two board members are the
chairman, David Laney, and Jeffrey Rosen, the Transportation
Department’s general counsel.

The board now has authority to hire a new president. David Gunn was fired by the board in November.

has agreed to give Amtrak $1.3 billion in subsidies in 2006, but the
administration had proposed no funding. Amtrak has a debt of more than
$3.5 billion and its operating loss for 2005 topped $550 million.