Sen. Charles E. Schumer has asked President Bush to allow federal prosecutor Denise O'Donnell of Buffalo and other U.S. attorneys in New York State to serve out their four-year terms.
O'Donnell, the only female chief federal prosecutor west of Albany, was appointed by President Clinton for a term expiring Oct. 21, 2002.
"I would very much like to serve out my term," O'Donnell, a registered Democrat, said in an interview Thursday.
For 200 years, senators have usually been the ones who recommended to the White House those who they wish to fill the posts of federal prosecutor and federal judge.
The Senate confirms White House nominees for these jobs. Senate rules allow a member to put a secret "hold" on a nominee.
But the senior member of the state's House delegation, Rep. Benjamin Gilman, R-Middletown, says he will change all that because New York's two senators are not from the president's Republican Party.
"It falls on my shoulders," Gilman told the Associated Press, claiming he'll work with Gov. George E. Pataki to decide who gets to be a federal judge and federal prosecutor.
"We expect to make recommendations on those positions that affect New York with the White House," Pataki spokesman Michael McKeon said.
However, Gilman spokesman Andrew Zarutskie told The Buffalo News his boss has not discussed taking away the senators' historic prerogatives with either Schumer, D-N.Y., Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., or Pataki.
Some Republicans in the state's House delegation don't want a fight with the senators, particularly Schumer, who serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which reviews all candidates for judge and prosecutor.
Gilman "may be throwing his weight around on this because he couldn't get a waiver on his chairmanship," a senior Republican official said. He referred to the refusal by the House GOP leadership to waive a rule limiting standing committee chairmanships to six years.
Gilman had been chairman of the House International Relations Committee.
Schumer said he'll work with Republicans. But he added, "It's far too soon for anybody to assume anything. . . . We're in uncharted territory."
O'Donnell noted that in 1977, then-Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y., began a tradition of nonpartisanship in the offices of federal prosecutor in the state.
When Jimmy Carter became president, Moynihan asked that any Republicans still serving be allowed to continue until their terms ended.
"Allowing U.S. attorneys to serve out their terms has the great benefit of reducing the role politics plays in the administration of justice in our federal courts," Schumer said in his letter to the president.
The two other federal prosecutors in New York whose terms have not expired are Daniel French of the Northern District and Loretta Lynch in the Eastern District.