WASHINGTON -- Accusing Democratic lawmakers of turning the confirmation process into "a never-ending political game," President Bush urged the Senate yesterday to vote promptly on more than 180 languishing nominees, including Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein, who was selected by Bush last fall for a federal judgeship.
Flanked by Rosenstein and several other nominees and senators in the East Room of the White House, Bush said the justice system and other important government functions were suffering because of Senate delays.
The three-member Council of Economic Advisers was down to one member during a time of economic peril, the Federal Aviation Administration is without a leader and seven top positions at the Justice Department aren't filled permanently, the president said.
About half of the nominees have been waiting longer than 100 days, and 30 longer than a year, Bush said. "Many of them have had their careers on hold," he said. "They've got spouses whose lives are stuck in limbo. They have children waiting to find out where they're going to go to school."
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada responded yesterday, saying the logjam is principally the result of Bush's insisting on approval of one person: Steven Bradbury.
Bradbury is the acting head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, which approved controversial policies involving extreme interrogation methods and the warrantless wiretapping program.
Reid said he attempted to broker a deal late last year in which he would agree to push through votes on 84 stalled nominees, but he said he was told by the White House that it was no deal unless Bradbury was included.
"When the president is willing to vote so many of his own people - including four assistant secretaries of defense and the Fed - off the island for one nominee, you know that person must be special. And special he is," Reid said. "Mr. Bradbury is the lawyer who loves to give the president the answer he wants regardless of the law, regardless of its impact on our nation and regardless of what it does to our standing in the world."
Bush singled out Rosenstein, the U.S. attorney, by name yesterday, saying the Richmond, Va.-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit is overburdened and understaffed. Rosenstein and two other 4th Circuit nominees would make "outstanding" judges, Bush said, adding that the "delay is irresponsible." Bush met with the three pending nominees privately before his remarks.
Rosenstein was nominated for the bench last fall, but his appointment has been opposed by Maryland's two Democratic senators, Barbara A. Mikulski and Benjamin L. Cardin. Both say they want to see Rosenstein remain as a prosecutor because he is doing a good job. They also say his ties to Maryland are insufficiently deep to warrant the appointment.
Other Marylanders whose nominations have stalled include Ellen R. Sauerbrey of Baltimore County, a former two-time Republican gubernatorial nominee, as an assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration; and Robert A. Sturgell of Calvert County as head of the Aviation Administration.
The Chicago Tribune contributed to this article.