House Republicans: No More Recess Appointments!

Last week I mentioned a little controversy over whether President Obama could nominate Elizabeth Warren to a vacancy in the newly formed consumer finance protection agency.  Now, angry about the possibility of Obama making that and other recess appointments, a large group of the newly elected freshman Republican representatives have called on Republican leaders to block any new recess appointments, apparently by keeping the Senate in pro forma session at all times. Although I’m not sure what these guys mean by “volunteering their own time” (are they saying they’ll be the Senators while the other guys go on break?), this kind of thing is not unprecedented.  As I mention in my book, the Democrats pretty much did the same thing at the end of the Bush Administration.  I don’t know what I think of it all.  The purpose of the Recess Appointments Clause is to ensure that the President can appoint important people to top positions if the Senate truly isn’t around to confirm him or her.  These days, with air travel and crazy-fast communications, this is unlikely to occur very often at all.  Instead, presidents of both parties now use the power to circumvent the normal appointment process because that process has become a brutal political battleground and a total mess.  There’s nothing unconstitutional about presidents using their power in this way (though there are some nice questions about what counts as a “recess” and so forth), but there’s nothing unconstitutional either about the other party (if they’re in control of the Senate) keeping the place in session continuously to prevent the President from using the power.    I don’t really miss living in Washington.

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