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Another ‘Unqualified Crony’ Appointment Bypasses Congress, Say Groups; International Population and Refugee Programs Jeopardized

January 5, 2006

NEW YORK — Exercising his prerogative to act without Senate confirmation when Congress is not in session, President Bush has appointed Ellen Sauerbrey to be Assistant Secretary of State for Refugees, Population, and Migration to serve until the end of 2006. Forgoing further efforts to gain Congressional approval for a faltering nomination, the White House has resorted to a recess appointment, a tactic used only in the most extraordinary of circumstances.

The action has drawn widespread criticism from groups concerned with international population and reproductive health, which strenuously opposed the nomination. (A partial list is at the end of this statement) “There is no justification whatsoever for the President’s circumventing the Senate’s confirmation process in this case,” said Carmen Barroso, Western Hemisphere Regional Director of the International Planned Parenthood Federation. “There is no emergency that warrants this action. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has not even voted on the nomination.”

Indeed it appears that the President acted to pre-empt the nomination’s anticipated defeat. He acted in a similar fashion with the recess appointment of John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations, but in that case, Bolton had been voted on by the Foreign Relations Committed and had failed to gain their endorsement. We share the view of Senator Barbara Boxer, a member of the committee, who said today, “Once again, this President has bypassed the normal procedures to put his cronies in office to the detriment of the American people, and in this particular case, the people of the world.”

President Bush nominated Sauerbrey in September, despite her lack of experience in the issues of refugees or migration or in running an agency with a billion-dollar budget. Currently the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women and a twice-losing candidate for governor of Maryland, her sole “qualification,” opponents charge, is her decades of loyal service to the Republican Party.

“Sauerbrey’s record at the United Nations has been a relentless effort to foist the Administration’s anti-choice agenda onto international bodies dealing with population and reproductive health and rights,” said Jodi Jacobson, Executive Director of the Center for Health and Gender Equity. “Although she failed at the UN, we fear that she will pursue the same agenda, with much greater influence, through her position at the State Department.”

As the New York Times observed, in one of the more than thirty editorials from all over the country opposing Sauerbrey’s nomination, “Mr. Bush’s selection of Ms. Sauerbrey conjures up memories of Michael Brown, the former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (and responsible for the Hurricane Katrina debacle). Senate Republicans should think hard about the mismatch between Ms. Sauerbrey’s credentials and the life-and- death responsibilities of this job.” The Senate has been denied the opportunity to render that judgment.

This statement is endorsed by the following organizations:

International Planned Parenthood Federation, Western Hemisphere Region

Center for Health and Gender and Equity (CHANGE)

Advocates for Youth

Catholics for a Free Choice

Center for Women’s Policy Studies

Feminist Majority


People for the American Way

Planned Parenthood Federation of America

Sexuality Education and Information Council of the U.S.

The White House Project

Women’s Environment and Development Organization