President Obama’s ‘recess appointment’ of Richard Cordray and three members of the National Labor Relations Board has left the Republican Party fuming.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) sounded off on the President’s bold move, arguing, “Because the President waited to nominate Sharon Block and Richard Griffin until just two days before the Senate was scheduled to adjourn last month, neither has undergone a single confirmation hearing or a single day of debate by the representatives of the American people.”
Republicans are angry not just with the fact that Obama used recess appointments to fill positions without having to have them confirmed by Congress (a practice hardly uncommon in the annals of presidential politics) but also that he seems to have broadened the definition of “recess.”
The President’s power to skirt Congressional disapprovals with recess appointments is rooted in Article II of the Constitution, which states that “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.” However, what the Constitution does not seem to provide is a definition as to what exactly constitutes a “recess”. The Senate often adjourns for short periods of time — at what point is an ‘adjournment’ long enough to be considered a “recess”?
With his latest move, Obama seems to be offered a broad interpretation of executive power, one in which President decides when the Senate is in session or not. This, critics say, goes against the very principle of separation of powers.
A series of Republican lawmakers have stepped forward criticizing and denouncing Obama’s power grab. The Constitution is unclear, but has Obama taken advantage of this lack of clarity? It may take the intervention of the judicial branch to decide. A three-way government face-off? We can’t wait!