President Clinton has been loath to use his power to make recess appointments lest he (further) upset the powers that be in the Senate. But word is he's on the verge of making one soon, sending the San Francisco philanthropist and openly gay James C. Hormel to be ambassador to Luxembourg.

Hormel was nominated back in 1997 and made it through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but the nomination languished in the Senate last year, even though Hormel had the support of some 60 senators. A small group of conservatives, who said Hormel would promote homosexual views, blocked a vote on the Senate floor.

Clinton so far has made only 57 recess appointments in 6 1/2 years, as opposed to about 80 by George Bush, some 70 by Jimmy Carter and about 270 for Ronald Reagan. In addition, Clinton has often made his appointments with the knowledge and, if not the consent, then at least not the outright hostility of Senate leaders. Administration officials apparently have discussed the Hormel situation with some lawmakers in recent days, but it's unclear what the reaction has been.

If Clinton does name Hormel, he would be the first openly gay U.S. ambassador.

Kasich: An Undertaking in New Hampshire

Nine months to go before the New Hampshire primary and things are already getting very weird.

Seems GOP candidate Rep. John R. Kasich (Ohio) went to a house party in Amherst, N.H., a few weeks ago only to learn that the hostess, Linda Kaiser, had just run over her dog Magic. Kaiser told the Manchester Union Leader that she had been "running around, doing last-minute things" before the event. She discovered she needed more ice and when she started pulling her car out of the driveway "I heard a little thump."

Kaiser found the family's 13-year-old small black Shetland sheep dog lying a few feet away from the car. "He looked at me and then he died.

"I was absolutely raving, in tears," Kaiser said, but the 35 to 40 guests were due to arrive within the hour and there was no time but to move Magic's body to the barn and cover him with a towel. Kasich stayed after the other guests had left and insisted that he bury the dog.

"I killed my dog and he buried him," Kaiser told the Union Leader, quoting Kasich as saying, "I'm not leaving until we bury this dog. If I ever told my wife I left here without burying this dog, we'd be divorced."

Kasich and Kaiser's husband, Christopher, dug a grave in the yard and buried the dog. Despite the tragedy, Kaiser appears a dedicated Kasich fan. "I can't imagine Elizabeth Dole or George W. Bush burying my dog. I can't see that as anything they would consider."

Talk about getting support the hard way.

The Temptations

Presidential campaigns are hazardous times for federal employees. Back in '92, candidate Bill Clinton promised federal downsizing and then put Vice President Gore in charge of "reinventing" more than 300,000 employees, who have since left government.

This time around could be as bad, warns Paul C. Light, director of the Brookings Institution's Center for Public Service. The temptation will be great for Gore and other candidates to call for more cuts, Light says. "Al Gore is in a tough situation right now. He needs things to talk about that make him seem presidential and there is nothing that would be more dramatic, in a way, to look strong as a vice president than to announce another big downsizing of the federal hierarchy. It is very tempting," Light said.

But, Light warned, Gore and the Democrats also face the risk of losing a "bidding war" with Republicans over how many government jobs to cut. "If Al Gore stands up and says he will take the federal work force back to pre-Korean War levels, which is where it would be after another 300,000 cut, Pat Buchanan will say I can take it back to pre-Revolutionary War levels," Light said.

Gore adviser Elaine Kamarck dismissed Light's remarks as mere speculation. "That scenario isn't under consideration right now," she said.

Marshall Arts

Marshal Marshall may be running the U.S. Marshals Service. John W. Marshall, now the marshal in Alexandria and a former Virginia state police sergeant, is said to be Clinton's pick to be executive director of the service, replacing Eduardo Gonzalez, who's leaving June 18 after six years on the job.

The 94 U.S. marshals are in charge of courtroom security, prisoner transport and other matters. Marshall is the son of the late Justice Thurgood Marshall.

Putting Roy Back in the Bureau

One of the country's top diplomats, J. Stapleton Roy, a veteran intelligence analyst, former ambassador to China and most recently ambassador to Indonesia, is said to be heading home for a designation as assistant secretary of state, running the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. That is the bureau in which he began his career 40-plus years ago. He would succeed the retiring Phyllis E. Oakley.

No More Acting

It's official, almost. Clinton has said he will nominate F. Whitten Peters, longtime Washington lawyer and principal general counsel at the Pentagon, to be secretary of the Air Force, a job he's been holding on an acting basis.