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Jewish World Review July 15, 2002 / 6 Menachem-Av, 5762

John H. Fund

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The McCain Mutiny-II | President Bush is making the Democratic Senate's refusal to vote on many of his judicial nominees a major campaign issue this fall. Eminently qualified nominees such as Miguel Estrada and Mike McConnell were nominated 14 months ago and have yet to receive even a hearing. But a fellow Republican is undermining Mr. Bush's effort to showcase vacancies that the Judicial Conference of the United States calls "judicial emergencies." Sen. John McCain of Arizona is blocking action on even those few nominees the Democrats are willing to confirm.

Mr. McCain has placed a "personal privilege" hold on all Bush nominees--executive as well as judicial. He says he'll lift his hold only if Mr. Bush appoints Ellen Weintraub, an election lawyer, to a Democratic vacancy on the bipartisan Federal Election Commission. Mr. McCain is furious at the FEC for a series of 4-2 votes that he feels improperly interpret the McCain-Feingold law by giving candidates more "flexibility." Democrat Karl Sandstrom, whose term has expired, sided with the three Republican appointees against two Democratic commissioners. Ever since those votes Mr. McCain has joined Democrats in mau-mauing the commission, going so far as to threaten to introduce legislation abolishing it.

On June 24 Mr. McCain escalated the dispute by writing Senate leaders to warn he would hold up all Bush nominations until he had a written guarantee that President Bush would appoint Ms. Weintraub. The McCain letter hit the Senate like a bombshell because Democrats and Republicans were on the verge of concluding an agreement under which 16 judicial nominations would finally be voted on. Now the Senate is in "total gridlock," says Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. "There won't be any nominations or confirmations any time soon," he predicted late last month.

Ms. Weintraub, a former Democratic staffer for the House Ethics Committee, has the fervent backing of congressional liberals. Sen. Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, perhaps the Senate's most liberal member, says "she will be a powerful, and needed, pro-reform force on the FEC." She is now a respected lawyer at the Washington firm of Perkins Coie, headed by Democratic superlawyer Bob Bauer. Mr. Bauer is a party animal. He helped craft the meritless racketeering complaint that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee filed against House Majority Whip Tom DeLay's fund-raising operation. All this makes Ms. Weintraub a curious candidate for a Republican like Mr. McCain to champion so fervently.

There may be a little campaign-finance nepotism at work here. Peter Roff of United Press International reports that Ms. Weintraub is married to Bill Dauster, the legislative director for Sen. Russ Feingold, the Wisconsin Democrat of McCain-Feingold fame. If Ms. Weintraub joined the Federal Election Commission, she would be ruling on a major piece of legislation that her husband worked on. Fair or not, there would be calls for her to recuse herself on some votes just as there have been calls for Sen. Phil Gramm not to vote on commodity regulation issues because his wife, Wendy, chaired the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

In any case, Sen. McCain's obstructionism doesn't make much practical sense. A White House official notes that since Ms. Weintraub's name was floated for the FEC only seven weeks ago, she is still in the "very early stages" of her background check. "There's no way that will be done until well into August, and then there are other matters that have to precede a formal appointment," he says. "Meanwhile does the entire confirmation process go on hold?" Ms. Weintraub's allies respond that the White House may be stalling her background check.

It's understandable that Sen. McCain is protective of his campaign finance legislation. And it's hardly surprising that he'd try to exert his influence on the FEC. But Roll Call, the newspaper of Capitol Hill, says it is flat-out wrong for him to be "punishing the judicial branch of government for the sins of one FEC commissioner." For him to hijack the presidential nominating process when several vacancies have been unfilled for over a year, and at a time when the federal government needs all hands on deck to fight a war on terrorism, carries traditional senatorial pique to new heights of self-aggrandizement.

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07/01/02: Opening the Schoolhouse Door: The politicians can't stop school choice now
06/20/02: The Body' Bows Out --- American politics will be duller without Jesse Ventura
06/06/02: It's time for President Bush to stand up to California's senators
05/16/02: A Court Intrigue: Procedural funny business in a racial-preference case
05/14/02: Thin moral ice: New revelations from a skater's Stasi files recall an oppressive era
05/09/02: Newark, Zimbabwe!?
05/02/02: Will Terror Leave Us No Choice? Teachers unions try to use Sept. 11 as an excuse for bad schools
04/23/02: The New Nixon? Al Gore plots his comeback
04/16/02: 'I, Uh, I Have No Comment': A union plays dirty in opposing an antitax initiative
03/31/02: Don't Just Do Something, Stand There!: Filibusters can help the Senate GOP get things done
03/14/02: Red-Light District: It's time to draw the line on gerrymandering
02/21/02: Slippery Slope: Can Dick Riordan beat California's Democratic governor?
02/14/02: Reform School: The Shays-Meehan incumbency protection act
02/07/02: Arizona Highway Robbery: Politicians make a grab for campaign cash
01/31/02: Disfranchise Lassie: Even dogs can register to vote. We need election reform with teeth
01/17/02: Dr. King's Greedy Relations: Cashing in on a national hero's legacy
01/10/02: Oil of Vitriol
01/04/02: The little engine that couldn't--and the senators who don't want it to
12/24/01: E-mail and low-cost computers could be conduits for a learning revolution
12/13/01: How Gore could have really won
12/07/01: Let our students keep their cell phones
12/04/01: Why the White House gave the RNC chairman the boot
11/12/01: A Winsome Politician: She won an election in a majority-black district--and she's a Republican
11/01/01: Bush Avoids Politics at His Peril
10/30/01: Cocked Pit: Armed pilots would mean polite skies
10/24/01: Chicken Pox: Hardly anyone has anthrax, but almost everyone has anthrax anxiety
10/11/01: Will Rush Hear Again? New technology may make it possible
10/04/01: Three Kinds of pols
08/24/01: Lauch Out: Who'll replace Jesse Helms?
08/08/01: Tome Alone: Clinton's book will probably end up on the remainder table
08/03/01: Of grubbing and grabbing: Corporation$ and local government$ perfect "public use"
07/31/01: Affairs of State: The Condit case isn't just about adultery. It's about public trust and national security
07/14/01: The First Amendment survives, and everyone has someone to blame for the failure of campaign reform
07/12/01: He's Still Bread: Despite what you've heard, Gary Condit isn't toast --- yet
07/12/01: Passing Lane: Left-wing attacks help boost John Stossel's and Brit Hume's audiences
06/25/01: Man vs. Machine: New Jersey's GOP establishment is doing everything it can to stop Bret Schundler
06/15/01: A Schundler Surprise? Don't count out "the Jack Kemp of New Jersey"
06/06/01: Memo to conservatives: Ignore McCain and maybe he'll go away
05/29/01: Integrity in Politics? Hardly. Jim Jeffords is no Wayne Morse
05/22/01: Davis' answer to California's energy crisis? Hire a couple of Clinton-Gore hatchet men
05/07/01: Prematurely declaring a winner wasn't the networks' worst sin in Florida
04/23/01: How to fix the electoral process --- REALLY!
04/11/01: A conservative hero may mount a California comeback
03/30/01: Can the GOP capture the nation's most closely balanced district?
03/09/01: Terminated
03/06/01: Leave well enough alone
02/22/01: Forgetting our heroes
02/15/01: In 1978 Clinton got a close look at the dangers of selling forgiveness
02/12/01: Clinton owes the country an explanation --- and an appology
02/06/01: How Ronald Reagan changed America
01/16/01: Why block Ashcroft? To demoralize the GOP's most loyal voters
01/15/01: Remembering John Schmitz, a cheerful extremist
12/29/00: Why are all Dems libs pickin' on me?
Dubya's 48% mandate is different than Ford's
12/13/00: Gore would have lost any recount that passed constitutional muster
11/13/00: The People Have Spoken: Will Gore listen?
10/25/00: She's really a Dodger
09/28/00: Locking up domestic oil?
09/25/00: Hillary gives new meaning to a "woman with a past"
09/21/00: Ignore the Polls. The Campaign Isn't Over Yet

©2001, John H. Fund