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Adelstein takes a step

The White House last week finally sent the nomination of Jonathan Adelstein as FCC commissioner to the Senate for confirmation. But there could still be roadblocks to the appointment of Adelstein, who is legislative counsel to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.).

The Democratic seat, once held by Gloria Tristani, has been empty for the past 10 months (Tristani returned to New Mexico to try to wrest a Senate seat away from Republican Pete Domenici).

In February, President Bush said he intended to nominate Adelstein, but no nomination has been sent until now.

Adelstein's nomination has been the victim of political disputes between Daschle and Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and also between Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and other senators.

McCain's objections still could derail Adelstein's bid to be commissioner because McCain is maintaining a hold on all nominees until Bush agrees to appoint Democrat Ellen Weintraub to the Federal Election Commission during the Senate's August recess, which would bypass a lengthy Senate confirmation process for Weintraub. McCain wants Weintraub to join the FEC as soon as possible because he is concerned that the election commission as it is currently constituted is passing rules that will gut his campaign-finance-reform legislation, which was passed by Congress last spring.

Daschle told reporters last week that the White House is still vetting Weintraub's nomination and "that's going to take a little time.

"It's certainly Sen. McCain's right to take the position he has," he added, "and we'll just have to work with it."

Meanwhile, Daschle plans to bring up every nomination individually and ask for cloture, which requires getting the votes of 60 senators. That's tough in the Senate right now, because the split between Democrats and Republicans is 50-49, with one independent, Sen. James Jeffords of Vermont.

The Senate Commerce Committee has scheduled a confirmation hearing for Adelstein this week. A McCain spokeswoman says the senator does not oppose holding hearings but will continue to block votes until he gets the assurances he needs on Weintraub.

That the Senate is moving nominations at all, however, shows progress.

Daschle and Lott have been locked in a battle over nominees since March, when Democrats voted down the nomination of one of Lott's closest friends, Judge Charles Pickering, to a federal judgeship.