The President is betting that Lee will be an easy pickup this time because the Republicans are not in a strong position to put up a fight. The White House figures that the GOP has spent its ammunition on impeachment, meaning that what Republicans currently need “is a record of achievement, not another record of attack,” says Dickerson. As a result, the President is willing to take the risk of angering some GOP conservatives in order to get his man formally installed. This sort of testing may be inevitable in order to gauge what is possible in a Congress still shaking in the aftermath of an all-out impeachment war, but clearly it also carries the potential of sparking another conflagration.
The jostling for position in the post-impeachment landscape has begun. Witness President Clinton and his renomination of Bill Lann Lee as the Justice Department’s top civil rights enforcer. Lee has held down the job on an acting, recess-appointment basis ever since the Senate Judiciary Committee refused to approve his nomination in December 1997. The committee rebuffed Clinton then because of Lee’s support of affirmative action. “The formal renomination of Lee now,” says TIME congressional correspondent John Dickerson, “is a testing of the political waters by Clinton.”