Ensign now controls federal appointments in Nevada

LAS VEGAS - With President-elect George W. Bush preparing to take office, Sen.-elect John Ensign has assumed control of federal appointments in Nevada.

Ensign will take over the responsibility from Sen. Harry Reid when it comes to recommending appointments to legal posts such as U.S. attorney, U.S. marshal and federal judgeships.

Ensign, a Republican, will control the appointments of those political patronage jobs in Nevada, because his party soon will control the White House.

But Ensign chief of staff Scott Bensing said Ensign would continue to consult with Reid on the recommendations.

Democrat Reid's current appointees are U.S. Attorney Kathryn Landreth and U.S. Marshal Jose Troncoso.

Ensign will be responsible not only for filling those posts, but for recommending appointments for two vacant federal judgeships.

Reid recommended U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Linda Riegle for one of the judgeships, but the appointment failed to make it through the Senate confirmation process fast enough.

An additional judgeship for Nevada was obtained through Reid's efforts in the waning days of the congressional session.

The judgeships are lifetime appointments and usually take longer to fill than the U.S. attorney and U.S. marshal posts. Those appointees will serve as long as a Republican is in the White House.

Ensign has not started a formal process to make his selections, but wants to move on recommending a U.S. attorney ''real quick,'' Bensing said.

Bensing said he has not received any formal letters of recommendation for the various jobs.

''We'll focus on that once we have an office to work out of in early January,'' he told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. ''We're going to consult law enforcement folks and members of the bar.''

Democrats as well as Republicans will be considered if they share Ensign's philosophies, and there's ''always a chance'' that Ensign will decide to keep Landreth, Bensing said.

Asked if Ensign might support Riegle for the judgeship, he replied, ''We haven't had that conversation.''


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