Pres. Obama’s Recess Appointments
Jennifer Rubin, in her new role as Fred Hiatt’s latest right-wing blogger hire for the Washington Post (you can read Dave Weigel’s classy write-up here), is apoplectic about the six recess appointments Pres. Obama just made. ‘Egregious’! ‘Imperious’! ‘So much for bipartisanship’!
Let’s skip straight to the dissection, courtesy of Steve Benen:
President Obama nominated six qualified officials to fill a variety of executive branch vacancies. These nominations were considered in the respective Senate committees, and approved by committee members. If brought to the floor, each of the six would have been confirmed, most with more than 60 votes. (When Rubin claims they were too “controversial” to “obtain confirmation,” this has no relation to reality. She’s simply wrong.)
Knowing this, conservative Republicans, who’ve engaged in obstructionist tactics unseen in American history, placed anonymous holds on the nominees. They could have simply voted against the nominees and urged their colleagues to follow suit, but that wasn’t good enough — Republicans had to shut down the advise-and-consent process altogether.
This, in turn, left the president with a choice: (a) leave the positions vacant until a Senate minority agreed to let the chamber vote up or down; or (b) fill the vacancies with qualified nominees who enjoyed the support of a Senate majority. He wisely chose the latter.
I am intrigued, though, by the notion of “partisanship” as a criticism from a partisan. Let me see if I have this straight — when Republicans engage in obstructionism, breaking down the confirmation process, that’s fine. When the president exercises the power available to him to circumvent this obstructionism, that’s “shedding any pretense of bipartisanship”?
It’s almost as if Obama is allowed to be affected [by] institutional abuses, but he’s not allowed to respond. There’s nothing wrong with political pugilism, just so long as Obama realizes he’s not supposed to punch back.
That’s quite a standard.
Rubin’s piece goes on to make arguments against some of the six officials to receive recess appointments — again, opponents could have made these arguments on the floor and tried to defeat the nominations as part of the traditional confirmation process — before wrapping up with an especially interesting point.
What, if anything, can be done by the imperious recess appointments of such controversial nominees? Todd Gaziano of the Heritage Foundation emails me, “The real threat (which Robert C. Byrd famously did once) is for the entire GOP caucus” to refuse to consent to any further nominees unless Obama agrees to refrain from issuing more recess appointments. Gaziano says that Republicans “could refuse to confirm another judge, diplomat, etc. until they extract their promise.”
Fascinating. Note Rubin’s use of the word “imperious” to describe a legal process used by George W. Bush more than 170 times.