WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Tuesday moved to break the deadlock at the Federal Election Commission, which had been without a ruling majority in a pivotal campaign year.
The FEC has been deadlocked with only two out of six members for months, therefore unable to act on key 2008 election issues such as Republican presidential hopeful John McCain’s request to opt out of public financing for his bid.
To break the impasse, President George W. Bush nominated three new candidates to serve on the panel, but he refused to withdraw his nomination of Republican Hans von Spakovsky to serve on the FEC despite Democrats’ opposition.
They have blocked his nomination because of his work at the Justice Department’s voting division, questioning whether he tried to inject politics into the group meant to independently oversee the country’s voting laws.
The White House believes he “would be confirmed by the Senate if allowed a vote,” said White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten in a letter to Reid on Tuesday.
As part of the package, Bush nominated Democrat Cynthia Bauerly, legislative director to New York Sen. Charles Schumer, Republican attorney Donald McGahn, and Republican Caroline Hunter, who works on the Election Assistance Commission.
Already another Democratic FEC nomination is pending, Steven Walther, and if he and Bauerly were confirmed, they would join Democrat Ellen Weintraub on the panel.
“This nominations package incorporates your proposals for the three Democratic seats on the commission and provides a clear path to our shared goal of a fully functioning six-member FEC,” Bolten said.
While a spokesman for Reid, a Nevada Democrat, criticized the decision by Bush to stick with von Spakovsky, he indicated a willingness to move forward on the slate of nominations.
“We will work towards the confirmation of the remaining nominees and expect to defeat Mr. von Spakovsky,” Reid spokesman Jim Manley said. “We will work to ensure that the commission is constituted so that it will be able to function in this election year.”
The FEC is responsible for ensuring candidates abide by campaign laws such as contribution limits and also investigate election complaints like independent groups coordinating their efforts with candidates, possibly in violation of the law.
Reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky; editing by Eric Beech