Partisanship, Who Needs It?

Partisanship, Who Needs It?

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Bush Outfoxes Congress....or Not

More partisan maneuvering *sigh*

From Mary Ann Akers at the Washington post on the President's recess appointment of Sam Fox as ambassador to Belgium.


To fight the Fox appointment, Democrats are questioning the Bush administration's plan to have Fox serve in a voluntary capacity -- receiving no pay for his duties as ambassador. This is an important legal technicality, as federal law prohibits "payment of services" for certain recess appointments. However, if the recess appointee in question agrees that he or she will take an unpaid position and not sue the government at a later date for compensation, then the appointment can go forward, at least as the White House sees it.

So as long as Fox -- a multi-millionaire -- agreed not to sue the Bush administration later for not paying him, the White House would be comfortable with giving him an unpaid, "voluntary service" recess appointment as ambassador to Belgium.

But here's the rub that makes Democrats view Bush's recess appointment of Fox as a major-league no-no: Federal law prohibits "voluntary service" in cases where the position in question has a fixed rate of pay, as an ambassadorship does. That's how the Government Accountability Office, an arm of the Democratic-controlled Congress, interprets the law.

In other words, according to senior Democratic Senate aides, the salary is a "statutory entitlement" and cannot be waived. While Fox would not be receiving a salary, he would still be entitled to live in government-owned housing and receive other benefits due any ambassador.

"How to reconcile this clear conflict between the pay restriction, which says that Fox cannot be paid, with the voluntary services provision, which says that the State Department cannot accept voluntary services from Fox?" queried one senior Democratic aide who asked for anonymity to speak frankly about the matter.

"That is the $64,000 question," he added.


At a time when America could use some good willed bipartisanship, the administration continues to antagnonize the Democrats, and while I respect their desire to fight back over this, I just have to wonder is it really worth the fight this time? It isn't like the Ambassador to Belgium is likely to make a huge impact in the next year an a half.

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