Tuesday, January 3, 2012
While President Obama vacationed in Hawaii over Christmas and New Years, he missed what some are calling an rip opportunity to make dozens of critical recess appointments unencumbered by the morass of the 112th “do nothing” Congress.
One such recess appointment is Richard Cordray, Obama’s nominee to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. But, with today technically the last day to use this authority it is highly unlikely the timid Mr. Obama would step up and act.
[A] senior administration official who would not be quoted told reporters at a White House background briefing Tuesday that Obama will not take advantage of that opening.
The official declined to provide further explanation, but the decision implies one of three things: that Obama does not believe he’s encumbered by technical restrictions on his power to recess appoint nominees and can still act between now and late January when Senators return to town; that he will instead wait until a future recess when feels he has more running room and political capital to recess appoint Cordray and others; or that he has no intention of challenging Congressional Republicans by making further recess appointments between now and the end of this Congress.
Obama’s been gun-shy about recess appointments compared to his predecessors — a reluctance that frustrates his progressive critics. But he also has taken a firm stance on Cordray, and many observers believed — and continue to believe — that a recess appointment is still in the works.
In a bid to block Obama’s recess appointments, Congressional Republicans have been forcing the Senate to hold “pro forma” sessions. In these, every three days a nearby Senator heads to the Capitol, gavels into and out of session, and thus prevents a technical “recess.”
Presidents typically respect this precedent, but the Constitution doesn’t tie their hands. Moreover, today is the day that the Senate switches from the first to the second session of the 112th Congress — and Obama could have used the extremely brief window in between those sessions to make any number of appointments. Senate Republicans were well aware of this threat, and made that clear in a number of public statements.
Just before winter recess, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced, “We are ready and willing to move forward, by [unanimous] consent, with a package of nominations to positions in both the executive and judicial branches — just as soon as I receive confirmation from the administration that it will respect practice and precedent on recess appointments, we can get these people confirmed.”
If President Obama believes Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell is “ready and willing to move forward” this spring on appointments, then the president is even more naive than we’ve been led to believe.
Editor Update: Apparently, President Obama had enough of being called a pussy and a wuss in the blogosphere. He manned up and made three recess appointments, one included Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The White House announced Wednesday that Mr. Obama would also use his recess powers to fill three vacancies on the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the federal agency charged with enforcing labor law.