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The Nation

Bush Fills Security Job, Skirts Senate

January 08, 2002|NICK ANDERSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — President Bush named former Secret Service director John Magaw as head of the new Transportation Security Administration on Monday, bypassing the usual confirmation process by making the appointment while the Senate is in recess.

Bush's action means that Magaw can serve without confirmation for about a year, until the end of the Senate's next session.

The agency Magaw will head is an arm of the Transportation Department and was created in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. It will be responsible for developing and deploying new airport security measures.

The agency is to take charge of all airline security matters by Feb. 19. Magaw will oversee the hiring of 28,000 airport security screeners and the installation of new systems to detect explosives in checked baggage.

Bush announced Magaw's nomination as undersecretary of Transportation for security Dec. 10. It was stalled amid procedural maneuvering on unrelated issues at the end of the last congressional session.

Magaw, 66, who also headed the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, has worked for the last two years as an anti-terrorism advisor to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The Constitution grants the president power to make temporary appointments to fill important government jobs without the Senate's consent while the chamber is in recess. Such postings expire at the end of the next congressional session--in Magaw's case, that probably means by the end of this year.

Occasionally, senators upset about a particular nomination will protest the use of recess appointments as an abuse of presidential power.

But this year, there was little reported controversy about the Magaw nomination, and it was not entirely clear why the Senate failed to act on it before adjourning Dec. 20 for a winter break. Congress is due to reconvene Jan. 23.

A spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) had no immediate comment on the White House announcement.

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