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Bar all holds

June 11, 1999



The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved James Hormel's nomination as United States ambassador to Luxembourg last year, but it never reached the full Senate. Several Republican senators reportedly put "holds" on the nomination because they did not want Mr. Hormel, a philanthropist who is openly homosexual, representing the US overseas.

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So President Clinton last week used his power to make interim appointments during congressional recesses to place Hormel in the job. This so enraged Sen. James Inhofe (R) of Oklahoma that he announced a hold on every single administration nominee to a civilian post - including Lawrence Summers to be Treasury secretary. Sen. Robert Byrd (D) of West Virginia did the same thing to President Reagan in 1985 until the president agreed to make no further recess appointments.

Inhofe likely won't succeed, since majority leader Trent Lott (R) of Mississippi won't brook tying up the Senate for long. But the incident again shows it's time the Senate ended the antiquated practice of "holds," which gives dictatorial power to a single member. Senators should confirm or reject presidential nominees outright.