New slate may not alter FEC stalemate

From Associated Press

President Bush sent the Senate a new slate of Federal Election Commission nominees Tuesday, an attempt to break a confirmation deadlock that was greeted coolly by the majority leader.

Bush nominated two new Republicans and one new Democrat to the FEC. But he did not withdraw the nomination of Republican Hans von Spakovsky, a former Justice Department official who does not have Democratic support to win confirmation.

The stalemate has left the six-member FEC without a quorum to conduct business despite record fundraising by presidential candidates and the emergence of outside groups that are testing the limits of advocacy rules.

The White House said it would accept a separate vote on Von Spakovsky. But Senate Republicans have been unwilling to let Von Spakovsky face an up-or-down vote.

Bush withdrew the nomination of current FEC Chairman David M. Mason, who has clashed in the past with Sen. John McCain, the likely GOP presidential nominee.

Reaction from the office of Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) didn't suggest an easy end to the impasse. "By abandoning Mr. Mason and instead sticking by Mr. Von Spakovsky, the White House has abandoned experience and independence for partisan loyalty," Reid spokesman Jim Manley said. "We will work towards the confirmation of the remaining nominees and expect to defeat Mr. Von Spakovsky."

Democrats have objected to Von Spakovsky's tenure at the Justice Department, where he had oversight on voting rights matters, including Texas' unprecedented mid-census redistricting, after which Republicans won a majority of the state's House seats.

Bush's new nominees are Democrat Cynthia Bauerly, a lawyer who serves as legislative director for Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.); and Republicans Caroline Hunter, a former White House official and current member of the Election Assistance Commission, and Donald McGahn, who has served as counsel for the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Previous nominee Democrat Steven T. Walther still awaits confirmation, and at Reid's request, the White House would permit one current commissioner, Democrat Ellen Weintraub, to stay.

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