Schwarzenegger to withdraw Maldonado's lieutenant governor nomination but resubmit it later

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has abandoned a showdown with the Assembly over swearing in Abel Maldonado as lieutenant governor — at least for now.

Rather than carry out his vow to administer the oath of office to Maldonado despite the Assembly’s failure to confirm him, the governor switched gears Friday.

Schwarzenegger announced that he will withdraw Maldonado’s nomination, then resubmit it next week for a future vote.

That re-starts a 90-day clock for confirmation, which means the debating and the fighting could continue for weeks.

Each side ripped the other Friday.

“I urge the Assembly to set aside partisan bickering and act swiftly and decisively on his nomination,” Schwarzenegger said in a written statement.

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez countered that the governor is playing politics by not accepting the outcome of two Assembly votes Thursday.

“By resubmitting this nomination, it is clear the governor is more interested in partisan bickering instead of solving the problems we were sent here to do,” Pérez said in a statement.

Maldonado said he was honored to accept the renomination and suggested the bickering is disgusting the public.

“The inability to come to a simple majority consensus on important issues is why Californians are rightfully disillusioned by Sacramento poltics,” he said.

Renomination means lawmakers need not vote until mid-May, just a few weeks before the June 8 primary election for lieutenant governor.

Fighting began Thursday when the Assembly did not confirm Maldonado and the governor announced he would install the Santa Maria Republican anyhow.

The two branches of government disagree in interpreting two sentences in the state Constitution.

The Assembly’s final vote Thursday was 37-35 in Maldonado’s favor, four votes shy of a majority of the house.

Schwarzenegger contends that Maldonado legally can ascend to lieutenant governor because the Assembly failed to reach a consensus.

The Assembly disagrees, arguing that the nomination dies if it fails to win the 41-vote threshold required for confirmation.

In backing down Friday, Schwarzenegger said that installing Maldonado now would spark a long, senseless court fight.

Pérez countered that the renomination “does nothing to change the fact that it is exactly the kind of backroom deal the people of California and the members of the Assembly have spoken out against.”

Mark Baldassare, president of the Public Policy Institute of California, said the fracas is sure to contribute to the public’s belief that the governor and Legislature cannot work together.

“For average Californians, what has been going on only reconfirms what they believed going into this year,” Baldassare said.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg declined comment Friday. Unlike the Assembly, the Senate voted Thursday to confirm Maldonado, 26-7.

Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, blasted the renomination and said the governor is pursuing his “personal agenda with tantrums.”

“Why would any of us change our mind?” he said of Thursday’s vote.

Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, defended the governor’s right to renominate Maldonado but suggested that doing so is pointless.

“I believe the Assembly was very clear yesterday and I don’t think it’s going to change the outcome,” Ma said.

One Democrat who hopes his colleagues confirm Maldonado on a revote, however, is Assemblyman Ted Lieu of Torrance, who supported him Thursday.

Maldonado displayed extraordinary backbone by breaking ranks with the GOP last year to support multibillion-dollar tax hikes because he knew it was essential to end a budget crisis, Lieu said.

“For us to sit here and reject his nomination is a level of hyper partisanship that is unacceptable,” Lieu said.

Opponents have ripped Maldonado for extracting, in return for his tax vote, a commitment from Democrats to place before voters an open primary measure that would force a runoff of the two candidates who get the most votes in primary elections, regardless of party.

Sen. Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, supports Maldonado’s confirmation and is leader the Legislature’s Latino Caucus, which could play a major role in a future revote because four its seven Assembly members abstained from voting Thursday.

Cedillo said he has disagreed with Maldonado on many votes but praised him for displaying bipartisanship on key votes.

“The point, for me, is the guy took courageous positions,” Cedillo said.