A political flap between Sen. Strom Thurmond and the Treasury Department could pose yet another obstacle to the confirmation of John D. Hawke Jr. as comptroller of the currency.
The South Carolina Republican has already blocked three nominees because he objects to a Treasury bureau's decision to let producers use bottle labels to tout the possible health advantages of drinking wine.
The controversy has snagged these nominations: Gary S. Gensler, under secretary for domestic finance; Timothy F. Geithner, under secretary for international affairs; and Edwin M. Truman, assistant secretary for international affairs.
Sen. Thurmond has vowed to pressure the Treasury to reverse its decision. "The Department of Treasury is squarely within the senator's sights right now," his press secretary said. "Anything that falls within the Department of Treasury or its responsibilities is fair game." Sen. Thurmond cannot move on Mr. Hawke's nomination until the Senate Banking Committee votes. If the panel approves him, "it is certainly possible we will put a hold on Mr. Hawke," Sen. Thurmond's spokesman said Monday.
President Clinton appointed Mr. Hawke on an interim basis in December while the Senate considers him for a full five-year term.
Senate Banking is still investigating the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency's use of examiners to develop a list of banks that support the Community Reinvestment Act. Mr. Hawke has repeatedly apologized and said he halted compilation of the list once he learned of it.