Shortly after the Congress went out of session for the Easter Break, President Obama named fifteen people to positions that had not made it through the confirmation process yet:
WASHINGTON — President Obama, making a muscular show of his executive authority just one day after Congress left for spring recess, said Saturday that he would bypass the Senate and install 15 appointees, including a union lawyer whose nomination to the National Labor Relations Board was blocked last month with the help of two Democrats.
Coming on the heels of Mr. Obama’s big victory on health care legislation, Saturday’s move suggests a newly emboldened president who is unafraid to provoke a confrontation with the minority party.
Just two days ago, all 41 Senate Republicans sent Mr. Obama a letter urging him not to appoint the union lawyer, Craig Becker, during the recess. Mr. Obama’s action, in defiance of the Republicans, was hailed by union leaders, but it also seemed certain to intensify the partisan rancor that has enveloped Washington.
“The United States Senate has the responsibility to approve or disprove of my nominees,” Mr. Obama said in a statement. “But if, in the interest of scoring political points, Republicans in the Senate refuse to exercise that responsibility, I must act in the interest of the American people and exercise my authority to fill these positions on an interim basis.”
The Becker appointment is sure to be the one to cause the most controversy on the right, not the least because his nomination had previously failed to survive a cloture motion in the Senate. However, these actions are fully authorized by the Constitution:
The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.
Since the Senate adjourned on Friday, Obama was empowered to make these appointments, and these people will be able stay in their offices until the end of the year, at which point they will have to be confirmed by the Senate that will be part of the 112th Congress.
And while conservatives seem to be reacting quite strongly to this action, with one conservative blogger calling it an example of “Obama’s Thug-ocracy,” the truth is that recess appointments are fairly common. President Eisenhower, for example, utilized recess appointments to appoint three Supreme Court Justices — Earl Warren, William Brennan, and Potter Stewart. More recently, President Reagan made 243 recess appointments over eight years, President Bush (41) made 77 recess appointments over his one term, and President Bush (43) made 170 recess appointments in his eight years. However the second President Bush’s ability to make recess appointments was severely curtailed after 2006 when Harry Reid the devised the strategy of never adjourning the Senate.
So, this is something that President’s have always done. Of course, someone should have told that to The New York Times when they wrote this in 2006:
Mr. Bush has used the recess appointment power to rescue egregiously bad selections that would never pass muster on grounds of experience and competence. (Remember last year’s recess appointment of the undiplomatic and Congressionally unacceptable John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations.) In other cases, he has merely sought to avoid logjams that the White House created for itself by refusing to accommodate reasonable Democratic requests for information, documents and consultation.
Somehow I doubt we’ll see the same editorial from the Times today and……..nope.
Or how about President Obama himself, then a Senator, when President Bush used a recess appointment to name John Bolton Ambassador to the United Nations:
“To some degree, he’s damaged goods,” said Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “I think that means we’ll have less credibility and, ironically, be less equipped to reform the United Nations in the way that it needs to be reformed.”
So much for intellectual consistency, I guess.
Of course, as James Joyner points out, Obama is merely following the practice of his immediate predecessor:
I’m not saying Obama is doing anything unprecedented or particularly worthy of criticism. Rather, I’m pointing out yet another data point, as if another were needed, confirming the thesis that presidents seldom give up extraordinary uses of power once predecessors get away with it. Obama is 44th in line on that one.
Yep. And, no doubt, will take that football further down the field for the next guy.