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Democrats take defensive tack with Bush

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The White House wants the Senate to take up some 200 executive branch and judicial nominations, including those for two Cabinet secretaries, three members of the Federal Reserve, and the US surgeon general.

Democrats worry that Bush may use the two-week Thanksgiving break to fill some of them, especially with people who are controversial. One is James Holsinger, who is being considered for surgeon general and has drawn criticism for a 1991 paper on the "pathophysiology of male homosexuality."

Bush's previous recess appointments include John Bolton as UN ambassador and Judges Charles Pickering and William Pryor to the US Court of Appeals. With 165 recess appointments, President Bush ranks No. 4, behind Presidents Reagan, Truman, and Eisenhower. President Clinton made 140 recess appointments, according to the US Senate Historical Office.

Senate majority leader Harry Reid says Bush is stalling on nominating Democrats for bipartisan oversight agencies.

"The Senate will be coming in for pro-forma sessions during the Thanksgiving holiday to prevent recess appointments. My hope is that this will prompt the president to see that it is our mutual interests for the nominations process to get back on track," said Senator Reid.

On Tuesday, leaders on the House Appropriations Committee stepped up the war of words with the White House – and fellow Democrats in the Senate – over stalled Iraq war funding. The Pentagon says that Bush's $196.4 billion request is needed by January to avoid the shutdown of US bases and some 100,000 layoffs.

"Rather than working with Congress on a responsible war-spending package, this administration is executing a plan to plunder from these essential base budget accounts in order to fund a continuation of the president's misguided war," said Rep. John Murtha (D) of Pennsylvania, who chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, in a press briefing.

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