WASHINGTON - Bush administration and congressional officials are pushing to break before July 1 a political logjam that is holding up the confirmations of nominees for four key Treasury Department, sources said Monday.
At issue is a dispute over textile trade issues, which prompted Sen. Jesse Helms to block the Senate from approving the nominations of Kenneth Dam for deputy secretary, Peter Fisher for under secretary for domestic finance, Jimmy Gurule for under secretary for enforcement, and Michele Davis for assistant secretary for public affairs.
The North Carolina Republican contends that his state's vital textile industry could be hurt by a definition that the U.S. Customs Service - a Treasury unit - uses to control fabric imports.
"Both Treasury and White House officials are working very hard to address Sen. Helms' concerns, and we are anxious to have the President's nominees confirmed," a Treasury spokesman said. "We are pursuing cooperative, ongoing discussions to resolve this matter as quickly as possible to satisfy all parties."
Sources say an agreement could be reached as early as this week, though more likely will be done next week or next month.
The White House has sent Sen. Helms a draft letter proposing amendments to pending trade legislation that would tighten the definition of the type of fabric that can be imported duty-free.
"We think we have a deal, and when it is implemented everything will be a go," a congressional source close to the negotiations said. "The holdup is in the Ways and Means Committee," which is the House gatekeeper on trade bills.
The deal also has to be cleared by House and Senate leaders.