WASHINGTON — President Bush withdrew two controversial nominees for top environmental posts Wednesday, the week before a planned Senate hearing on their confirmation.
The White House said William Wehrum and Alex A. Beehler recognized that they would not be confirmed and asked to be removed from consideration.
Wehrum, acting head of the Office of Air and Radiation at the Environmental Protection Agency, had been nominated to take the position permanently. Beehler, a Pentagon environmental official, had been put forward as the EPA's inspector general.
"We've had ongoing conversations with them, and they reached the conclusion that it would be best if they withdrew their names," White House spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore said.
Democrats who had blocked the nominations had recently agreed to a request from Republicans on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee for a hearing, on the condition that the White House refrain from appointing the pair during Congress' spring break.
Recess appointments, which presidents have used to skirt Senate opposition, last for a congressional session, which in this case ends about the same time as Bush's presidency.
Bush granted such a recess appointment last week to Susan Dudley, another official under fire from environmentalists, to be White House regulatory czar. He also installed St. Louis businessman Sam Fox as ambassador to Belgium.
Congressional sources and industry lobbyists said they were not sure whether Bush intended to use the same tactic for Wehrum and Beehler.
"That was the plan all along," said a lobbyist with ties to the administration. Wehrum's post expires July 7, and Congress takes its summer break in August. But anger in Congress over last week's recess appointments may have changed the equation, several said.
Senate Environment Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) called the withdrawals "good news."
Times staff writer Maura Reynolds contributed to this report.