Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Using The Rules

Senate Majority Leader has finally followed through on one of his promises: he is actually keeping the Senate "in session" during the Thanksgiving Holiday break to prevent the White House from making any recess appointments. Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia held the first of such sessions yesterday. From an article in today's NY Times:

Who says the Senate cannot act quickly? It conducted a full day’s business in less than 30 seconds on Tuesday.

Of course, there was no real business to conduct. But fearing that President Bush would again use a Congressional recess to install disputed executive branch appointees without Senate confirmation, Democrats convened the Senate for the first of four microsessions to be held during the holiday break, precisely to thwart such an end run.

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, chose to schedule the so-called pro forma sessions because Mr. Bush took advantage of past recesses to install nominees including John R. Bolton, as ambassador to the United Nations, and, most recently, Sam Fox, a donor to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, as ambassador to Belgium. This time, Democrats were particularly suspicious of plans to appoint as surgeon general a nominee they oppose.

Of course, the White House isn't happy about having one of the President's favorite toys being taken away, but, in the face of the rules covering the situation, only the weakest of spins is being offered:

The administration and Congressional Republicans were not amused by the Democratic tactic, with the White House noting that 190 nominations were pending in the Senate. “Unfortunately, Congress has once again failed to complete important work that will help the American people,” said Emily A. Lawrimore, a White House spokeswoman.

While Sen. Reid clearly won this inning, the game is hardly over. The reason given for the extraordinary action is that Reid wants the President to start appointing some of the people Democrats have designated for regulatory commissions. If the President gives a little, it will be back to business as usual. The President will make some egregiously horrid nomination, the Senate Democrats will gnash their teeth and stamp their feet, and then confirm.

In the meantime, however, we do have some nice comedic theater to watch.

Pass the popcorn.



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