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Friday, January 6, 2012

Recess appointments

President Obama has just made some recess appointments to the CFPB and the NLRB which will agitate some Republican Senators.

For those who don't carry a copy of the Constitution in your jacket pocket, recall that the President normally makes appointments by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. If the Senate is "not in session" then the President may make "recess appointments" which do not require Senatorial approval (but are also not permanent). To put it in context, I believe that the Senate made it clear to the previous president that they would not approve of the nomination of John Bolton to be the UN representative and Bush put him up there via a recess appointment. Recess appointments are an accepted part of presidential powers.

What is the difference here? The Senate claims that it is "in session". But the Senators have almost all been gone for some time. They have a member come onto the floor every 3 days to have a 5 minute "session". The Senate Democratic majority goes along with this pretense, presumably because they want to retain the right to engage in the same sort charade themselves in the future (as they have done in the past).

If my mother's children had engaged in such silliness, she would have given us a whipping.

Obama rightly claims that the Senate is in a phony session and he went ahead and made the appointments as if they had formally recessed. The Rs will howl that he has crossed the Rubicon and we are now only days away from the final destruction of the Republic.

You can find Lawrence Tribe's piece on this here. It makes me a bit nervous to agree with Tribe, but a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do.

Two more points.

1. The Ds claim, and I think I have heard the Rs acknowledge, that the Rs would like to block those appointments (in part) because they don't like a new law that the NLRB is supposed to enforce. It was passed in the last Congress (which was Democratic). Now, let's "pass over and leave unmentioned" the fact that this is not an appropriate tactic by the Rs and ask ourselves this: Do the Rs not know that Obama's campaign theme is going to be that Congressional Republicans are playing partisan games with the country's future? Are they going to fight him on this and make an even bigger issue of it, giving Obama all sorts of ammunition for that theme? As Seth Meyers would say on SNL: Are they going to do that? Really?

2. I am sure that all of the Democrats who hear about this will reflect for a few moments and say, "Now I understand why it was inappropriate for all of those Democratic state legislators in Texas and Wisconsin to go AWOL a while back." (For those who don't remember, those states require a super majority for a quorum which protects a large minority's right to present their case. The large minorities recently prevented legislation they opposed by leaving their states. A lot of folks on the left cheered.) I'm sure the Ds will see the similarities, won't they?

1 comment:

  1. I will agree with Wayne that agreeing with Tribe makes me nervous, so I won’t. While I believe the tactics the Rs were using to prevent an appointment is “in appropriate” so is the tactic of waiting until the Senate is not in session to make an appointment the Executive knows the Senate will not approve.

    Sure, the appointment may (?) have been legal, but so was the Rs tactics, so Tribe and I will disagree on this one.

    I have always been a believer that language and choice of words is important in any conversation. A fact that politicians and journalists know well. So if the senate is in a legal session is it accurate to characterize the session as “phony”, or if legislators go AWOL, an illegal act making them subject to arrest, is it accurate to characterize that as “inappropriate”? I would quibble.

    Having said all of the above, some of our greatest leaders have been rule benders and often we consider them great for that very reason. So, Os recess appointments don’t send me into a rage of indignation over rule bending. Do I wish he had not done it? Yes, and it has nothing to do with my like or dislike of the appointees or the positions they will fill. The entire episode is “silly” which brings us back to Wayne’s comment concerning corporal punishment. Someone needs to get a whipping.