Governor withdrawing Maldonado nomination from Assembly

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Friday that he intends to withdraw his nomination of Sen. Abel Maldonado for lieutenant governor from the Legislature but that he’ll resubmit Maldonado’s name — a move that starts anew the 90-day clock to consider the confirmation.

Schwarzenegger, who was traveling outside the state, said he was taking the action “to avoid wasting time and energy on litigation that should be spent passing a jobs package that will get Californians back to work.”

The move came a day after the divided Assembly, controlled by Democrats, thwarted Maldonado’s confirmation in a divided vote that raised legal questions about whether the Republican senator from Santa Maria had been rejected or confirmed.

Until now, Maldonado’s confirmation was required to be resolved by Feb. 22 — 90 days from his nomination. By resubmiting Maldonado’s name, the confirmation clock will be pushed back another 90 days.

Earlier, the Democrat-rule Senate voted to confirm Maldonado. 

Maldonado’s confirmation has roiled Capitol. Many Democrats, especially in the Assembly, were not disposed to confirm a Republican, while many Republicans were unhappy that Maldonad crossed party lines to support the Democrats’ budget proposals.

In the Assembly, Maldonado’s confirmation was derailed Thursday after he failed twice to capture the 41 votes he needed in the 80-member house. In the first tally, he received 36 votes. In the second, which lasted only a few minutes, he got 37.

The votes followed a series of procedural moves and sudden, closed-door party meetings of the members to plot strategy that slowed down the confirmation process. 

Ironically, those types of legislative stand-offs involve state budget votes and, often, those votes have hinged on the whim of Maldonado, who switched sides in some budget votes.

Meanwhile, the governor’s legal staff said Maldonado’s nomination was still alive because the Assembly had not mustered 41 votes opposing him. A similar argument, rejected by the courts, was made in 1988 after a divided Legislature rejected the nomination of Dan Lungren as state treasurer. 

Schwarzenegger’s legal team maintained a majority of the Assembly’s 80 members would have to vote against Maldonado in order for his nomination to be rejected. Assembly Speaker-elect John Perez, D-Los Angeles, maintained that, like other bills in the Legislature, the failure to secure 41 votes needed for passage amounted to a rejection.

“The Assembly voted twice, and in both instances, a majority of Assembly members would not ratify his nomination,” Perez said. “The people of California have made it abundantly clear that they loathe the kind of backroom deals that Sen. Maldonado and the governor have repeatedly cut over the past few years, which is why a majority of members, myself included, rejected this nomination.”

The disputed language in the state constitution says, “In the event the nominee is neither confirmed nor refused confirmation by both the Senate and the Assembly within 90 days of the submission of the nomination, the nominee shall take office as if he or she had been confirmed by a majority of the Senate and Assembly.” Many Democrats said that language meant that Maldonado had been defeated because he was unable to get a 41-vote majority for confirmation. Republicans and the governor, however, said 41 opposition votes were needed to defeat the confirmation.

The Assembly’s lone independent, Arambula, (I-Fresno), voted in favor of Maldonado’s confirmation. “If we reject this nomination, we will be perceived, rightfully so I believe, as putting partisanship above the interests of the state.”

Assemblyman Charles Calderon (D-Whittier), who opposed Maldonado’s nomination, took issue with the partisan criticism. “The process that created this nomination could not have been any more partisan,” he said. “It is quintessential backroom politics where power brokers gather behind close doors to carve up political goods.”

Calderon said Maldonado was only appointed by Schwarzenegger because he “went along with what (Schwarzenegger) wanted” during budget debates. And he said Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, was simply pushing for Maldonado’s confirmation so Democrats could try to elect a Democrat to

“There’s no reason to confirm Mr. Maldonado,” Calderon said.

Maldonado was selected by Schwarzenegger to succeed Democrat John Garamendi, who was elected to Congress last fall.

In a statement Friday, Maldonado said, “”I’m humbled and thankful to my colleagues in the Senate for confirming me to the lieutenant governor’s office and very disappointed with yesterday’s show of extreme partisanship and politicking in the Assembly.”

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