Barack Obama has just made a recess appointment to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. He’a also about to make appointments to the National Labor Relations Board. It’s fairly standard for Presidents to make recess appointments. And under Bush, it became standard when the Democrats obstructed appointments to open positions. There’s only one problem: the Senate is not in recess.
Congressional Republicans were furious Wednesday after President Obama’s recess appointment of Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, arguing the move was unconstitutional because the Senate has met every three or four days over the holiday period and therefore was not on a recess.
“This is an extraordinary and entirely unprecedented power grab by President Obama,” complained House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, in a statement, saying it “would have a devastating effect on the checks and balances that are enshrined in our constitution.”
“This recess appointment represents a sharp departure from a long-standing precedent that has limited the President to recess appointments only when the Senate is in a recess of 10 days or longer,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky.
A few caveats here. First, the Senate is only sort of in session. It’s mainly pro forma, pretending to be open precisely to prevent recess appointments. Second, the Republicans have been acting like world class twerps on this matter. They aren’t opposed to Cordray, who is qualified (as was Warren). They are opposed to anyone being appointed to head the CFPB. And their opposition to the NLRB has a similar motivation, since that board — a board authorized by law — is one chair away from no longer being able to legally function. And the NLRB nominees are qualified (one is a Republican). This isn’t just standard filibustering of a controversial candidate. That would be bad enough. This is backdoor effort to disable two agencies that are supposed to exist, no matter how much we might not like them.
I said it when Bush was President; I’ve said it several times since Obama became President: elections have consequences. The Senate approval process is supposed to be a process, not a roadblock used to disable parts of the government. Qualified people should be appointed to positions for which they have been nominated, no matter how much we don’t like the positions or them.
All that having been said, two wrongs do not make a right. The Democrats pulled this pro forma crap too. Had Bush responded this way, the halls of Congress would have been filled with the sighs of Democrats fainting from such an egregious abuse of the process. Barack Obama, as Senator, was not exactly screaming to end filibusters when he could have done something about it (he was not part of the Gang of 14).
All sides are acting like spoiled little children, playing a game of “he started it.” It’s shit like this that makes me go up to Washington with a 2×4 and start whomping any Senator who gets within range. I don’t give a shit who started it. It needs to stop.
Violating the rules again is not the way to stop it, though. The Republicans got through this when Bush was President by finding Democrats who would let judicial candidates through. Scott Brown, at least, has indicated he would allow votes to proceed and I’m certain other Republicans could be cajoled or shamed into it.