The June 10 knee-jerk editorial "The Hold on Mr. Inhofe" missed the point behind my decision to place holds on Clinton nominees in response to the president's abuse of the recess appointment power.

The president's underhanded appointment, on the last day of a five-day Senate recess, of a highly controversial individual -- James Hormel -- to an ambassadorial post is an affront to the Senate and to the American people. By never submitting the required financial disclosure forms to the appropriate committee, this nominee avoided a confirmation hearing during this session of the Senate.

He did have a hearing in the previous Congress, but it occurred well before some of the more controversial aspects of the candidate's background were fully known to the Senate. This year, the normal confirmation process should have been allowed to proceed again with a full airing of these issues. That it did not proceed in this manner is due to actions of the administration, not to any action by this, or any other, senator.

However, Mr. Hormel is not the issue. My action was not intended to undo his appointment. He is the ambassador to Luxembourg. The issue is that his appointment in this arbitrary manner is unconstitutional and a threat to the Senate's role in the confirmation process.

In placing holds on Mr. Clinton's nominees, I did exactly what Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W. Va.) did to protest recess appointments in the Reagan administration. In 1985 Sen. Byrd put holds on 76 nominations and more than 5,000 military promotions for almost two months. I have not been able to find any evidence that The Post editorially disapproved of his actions at that time.

In the end, President Reagan satisfied Sen. Byrd by agreeing that he would notify the Senate, in advance of a recess, of his intention to make any future recess appointments. Just as I insisted, President Clinton has now joined in endorsing this same agreement for the future even though he deliberately violated it on June 4. As a result I have lifted my holds as I said I would.

I applaud the president for agreeing with me that what happened on June 4 should not happen again.


U.S. Senator (R-Okla.)