He's All in a Tizzy Over Bill's Gay Ambassador

  • Share
  • Read Later
For Bill Clinton, it was a nifty trick, appointing James Hormel to be the first openly gay ambassador to Luxembourg (or anywhere else) while the Senate was on vacation. Republicans grumbled, but all of them, from Trent Lott on down, knew this wasn't the time -- think gun control -- to advertise their intolerance. All of them, that is, except James Inhofe. The furious Oklahoma conservative is vowing to hold up every other nomination, case by case, that the President sends his way, from Larry Summers to Richard Holbrooke to the ambassador to the Federated States of Micronesia. Not because Inhofe can get Hormel recalled -- the appointment was made under a somewhat sneaky but constitutionally valid move known as a recess appointment -- but to teach Clinton a lesson.

Though Majority Leader Trent Lott is similarly chilly on Hormel's stealth posting, he's not going along for this ride. But it'll take 60 votes to stop Inhofe, and that would take a wider revolt that Republicans just can't afford right now. Inhofe will probably recede quietly when he feels he's made his point, but that could take a while: After all, he's citing Democrats. "I'm going to go as far as Bob Byrd did" in 1985 when the West Virginia curmudgeon held up thousands of nominations after Ronald Reagan pulled one too many recess fast ones. (White House spokesman Barry Toiv was quick to point out that Clinton has made only 57 recess appointments to Reagan's 239.) Of course, none of Reagan's were gay activists. Hormel, said Inhofe Tuesday, "puts his agenda ahead of the agenda of America." It seems that at least two can play at that game.