Obama's recess dilemma

The president may be tempted to make several appointments while Congress is on holiday, but doing so poses major political risks

Edward Morrissey

Normally, a recess means that work gets put on hold. A holiday means a break from normal activity, even in Washington D.C. But as with most other quaint notions of normality, recesses and holidays in the beltway take on a partisan significance, especially when Republicans and Democrats believe they have an opportunity to score political points.

At the heart of this particular holiday rancor is Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, which reads, "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." The original intent of this clause was to provide the president a way to fill sudden openings in the executive and judicial branch at a time in history when calling Congress into session immediately was impossible, given the transportation and communication limitations of the era. This rule prevented government from becoming paralyzed in the absence of the Senate, and was expected to be used only in pressing circumstances.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up
To continue reading this article...
Continue reading this article and get limited website access each month.
Get unlimited website access, exclusive newsletters plus much more.
Cancel or pause at any time.
Already a subscriber to The Week?
Not sure which email you used for your subscription? Contact us
Edward Morrissey

Edward Morrissey has been writing about politics since 2003 in his blog, Captain's Quarters, and now writes for HotAir.com. His columns have appeared in the Washington Post, the New York Post, The New York Sun, the Washington Times, and other newspapers. Morrissey has a daily Internet talk show on politics and culture at Hot Air. Since 2004, Morrissey has had a weekend talk radio show in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area and often fills in as a guest on Salem Radio Network's nationally-syndicated shows. He lives in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota with his wife, son and daughter-in-law, and his two granddaughters. Morrissey's new book, GOING RED, will be published by Crown Forum on April 5, 2016.