US President George W. Bush has defied Congress again by placing a slew of controversial political allies in key national security and foreign policy posts, circumventing the requisite approval process in the Senate.
Bush resorted to the same recess appointment procedure he used in August to install John Bolton as US ambassador to the UN despite Capitol Hill's strong opposition to the nominee.
Key vacancies filled
On Wednesday, the bureaucratic maneuver was used to fill key vacancies in the Defense, State and Homeland Security Departments with officials whose approval by the Senate was in doubt.
The White House announced Bush had appointed Gordon England, a former Navy secretary, to the position of deputy secretary of defense left vacant by Paul Wolfowitz, a leading architect of the Iraq war, who resigned the second-highest Pentagon job last year to become president of the World Bank.
A former executive of General Dynamics, England was designated acting deputy defense secretary last May, but his Senate confirmation hearing hit a roadblock when at least two Republican senators, Olympia Snowe of Maine and Trent Lott of Mississippi, put it on hold over England's decisions concerning the local shipbuilding industry.
The recess appointment, which presidents can make when Congress is in recess, will allow England and others to remain in their jobs until January 2007, when the current congressional session ends.
However, England's appointed was expected to generate less controversy than that of Dorrance Smith, who was named assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, or the Pentagon's chief spokesman.
In November, Smith penned an article for the Wall Street Journal blasting all the major US television networks as well as the government of Qatar for cooperating with al-Jazeera in showing gruesome battlefield footage obtained by the Arab television channel in Iraq.
He decried what he called "the ongoing relationship between terrorists, al-Jazeera and the networks" and asked if the US government should maintain normal relations with Qatar as long as its government continued to subsidize al-Jazeera which broadcasts from the Gulf state.
The outburst prompted Carl Levin, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, to enquire as to whether Smith, a former media adviser to ex-US administrator in Iraq Paul Bremer, "should be representing the United States government ... with that kind of attitude and approach."
Levin also announced that he was putting a senatorial hold on the nomination, which remains in effect.
Under Senate rules, a single senator can block a presidential nomination by adducing serious concerns about the candidate's fitness for the job.
The recess appointment list also includes Ellen Sauerbrey, who has now become assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration.
A former unsuccessful Republican gubernatorial candidate in Maryland, Sauerbrey has infuriated most women's groups by her staunch opposition to abortion rights in her current job as ambassador to the UN Commission on the Status of Women.
Her nomination was being fought by Democratic Senators Barbara Boxer, Barack Obama and Paul Sarbanes, with Boxer charging Sauerbrey had displayed "outright hostility" to women's rights at her UN job.
But if most of the latest recess appointees were opposed on ideological grounds, the naming of Julie Myers to the job of assistant secretary of homeland security in charge of immigration and customs was likely to revive charges of lax ethics.