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Posted by on Mar 27, 2010 in Politics | 31 comments

Obama Makes 15 Recess Appointments: Another Sign of a Political Style “Shift”?

A lot of pundits (old and new) will soon be writing about whether there is a “new” Barack Obama who is starting to show a willingness to use the power of his office — a willinessness many of his supporters had started to feel he was lacking. The latest big development: the White House announced that he’s making 15 recess appointments after hitting a brickwall in many cases due to GOP Congressional opposition or inaction.

The Huffington Post reports:

President Obama on Saturday announced the recess appointment of 15 political appointees whose nominations had been stalled by Republicans.

Go to the link for the full list. MORE:

“The United States Senate has the responsibility to approve or disapprove of my nominees. But if, in the interest of scoring political points, Republicans in the Senate refuse to exercise that responsibility, I must act in the interest of the American people and exercise my authority to fill these positions on an interim basis,” Obama said in a statement.

“Most of the men and women whose appointments I am announcing today were approved by Senate committees months ago, yet still await a vote of the Senate. At a time of economic emergency, two top appointees to the Department of Treasury have been held up for nearly six months. I simply cannot allow partisan politics to stand in the way of the basic functioning of government.”

Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution gives the president the right to unilaterally fill any vacancy that would normally require Senate confirmation when the Senate is in recess.

Unlike appointments that are confirmed by the Senate, recess appointments only last until the end of the next session of Congress, which right now would mean until the end of 2011.

If you look at Obama’s decision to roll up his sleeves and his apparent conclusion that he was going to get nowhere with the GOP with these appointments, it suggests he is now in the next phase of his presidency where he is going to try to optimize use of his power as President to get his policies and agenda through, and also optmize his role as head of his party.

And perhaps the context makes it more defensible now than before: with TV images of angry Tea Party rallies, video of Sarah Palin reading from a paper swiping at Obama about his use of a teleprompter, Republicans insisting Obama has ignored them, Americans going to Tea Party rallies and counter Coffee Party rallies (with impending Marijuana Party rallies in California?), reports of intimidation against Democrats and Republicans (even a road rage incident because someone dared to have a pro-Obama bumperstick on their car — THAT portends for a LOT of work for traffic cops in 2010 and 2012, doesn’t it?) a larger number of Americans may start to conclude that if government is not broken, then on some key issues the willingness of political factions to work together is broken. And if the alternative is stalemate or inaction or a President using his legal power as other Presidents have before him, then some Americans (who are not talk show hosts) may give him a partial pass.