Republicans are furious with President Obama for appointing Richard Cordray to lead the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau without first getting approval from the Senate. The Constitution permits presidents to install appointees when the Senate is not in session, and Congress won't resume official business until the holiday break ends Jan. 23. But the GOP had tried to prevent Obama from making recess appointments by scheduling informal sessions — where nothing was actually done — every third day during their break. Republicans say this meant the Senate was never truly in recess, so Obama's move was illegal. Was it?
Obama trampled the Constitution: A president simply can't make a recess appointment when "the Senate isn't actually in recess," says the New York Post in an editorial. In 2007, Democrats held the same pro forma sessions every few days — "each of which lasts only a few seconds" — to prevent George W. Bush from making recess appointments. They can't just dismiss the same strategy as a "gimmick" now. "King Barack's" disregard for the Senate's powers amounts to "blatantly unconstitutional overreach."
"King Barack's power grab"
Republicans are the ones abusing their authority: Republicans are blocking hundreds of Obama's nominees, says Ezra Klein at The Washington Post, yet he only made four recess appointments — Cordray, and three members of the National Labor Relations Board. These organizations simply can't function without leaders. Obama is merely preventing Senate Republicans from abusing their power over nominations to "kill or change agencies that they didn't have the votes to reform."
"The radical Republican tactic behind Obama's controversial nominations"
Actually, both sides are bending the rules: Obama really has "pushed presidential power beyond past limits," says David Frum at Frum Forum. But congressional Republicans did the same thing by pretending the Senate is "in session when it's obviously not in session." This is just the latest example of how the Republican minority is using quirky rules to block appointments and "impose its will" on the entire government. "Constitutional abuse begets constitutional abuse."
"The Cordray crisis"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- The U.S. Marines are developing laser weapons. Here's why.
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- Why the Supreme Court is allowing Texas to hold an unconstitutional election
- 3 horrific inaccuracies in Homeland's depiction of Islamabad
- How 1,000-year lifespans could remake the economy
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Gamergate has backfired spectacularly on its nincompoop perpetrators
- Ban PowerPoint!
- The stories behind 22 classic album covers
- Rise of the machines
Subscribe to the Week