(CNSNews.com) - The Senate Commerce Committee Thursday will likely become the first panel under the new Democratic-controlled Senate to reject one of President Bush's nominations. That opposition, according to a presidential historian from the Heritage Foundation, appears to be an attempt "to blackmail the administration."
Although she is not a member of the Commerce Committee, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) has led the fight against the nomination of Mary Sheila Gall to chair the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Clinton criticizes Gall for voting, as a member of the CPSC, against tougher standards for the manufacturers of bunk beds, baby bath seats and baby walkers.
"This is a consumer protection agency - it should not be too much to ask that the person who chairs it actually will protect consumers," Clinton told reporters. "Ms. Gall's record demonstrates that, when children die in bunk beds, baby walkers and bath seats, she enthusiastically blames the parent, and defends the product."
However, in a 1999 letter to USA Today, Gall criticized the current commission chairman, Ann Brown, for "the procession of proclamations issued by this agency on behalf of the federal Nanny State." Brown and Clinton are also close friends, leading some to believe that Clinton's motives are partisan and personal.
"This is a partisan action by the Senate and not an action based on substance," charged White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, when he was asked about the battle over Gall's nomination.
Gall's nomination isn't the first for which the Bush administration has had to fight. The president saw his first choice for Secretary of Labor, Linda Chavez, withdraw her nomination after criticism that she had employed an illegal immigrant as a nanny. The nomination of John Ashcroft to be attorney general also produced a heated confirmation battle, although Ashcroft was eventually confirmed.
Now, seven months into the administration and with less than half of the Bush nominees confirmed, the closely divided Senate is expected to reject Bush's pick for an otherwise low-profile post.
The recent tactics of the Senate are untraditional, some say. According to Alvin Felzenberg, a presidential historian at the Heritage Foundation, such attempts to thwart presidential nominations based on ideological differences have come few and far between.
"The ability of the president of the United States, who has been certified and inaugurated, to have his people serve with him is something Alexander Hamilton talked about in the Federalist Papers," Felzenberg said. "Hamilton wrote that the president is entitled to his minions, for the 'smooth, good, and honest administration of his government,' and most Congresses have respected that."
Felzenberg added that the Senate appears to be attempting to blackmail the administration, sending a message that it will not confirm anyone who does not believe in the same policies the majority in the Senate does.
"In our system, there are ways to change the policy without striking out at the president's people, including legislation, hearings, and oversight," Felzenberg said. "The president, in order to carry out his mandate, his duly constitutional role, needs his own people.
"To attempt to change that policy by holding up the person nominated, I think, smacks in the face of what the framers intended," he said.