Thursday, December 30, 2010

Recess Appointments

President Obama announced six recess appointments to his administration yesterday, all but one of which were not terribly controversial. Senate Republicans will not be happy with the appointment of James Cole to the number two spot at the Department of Justice. They remember that he was part of the team that investigated Newt Gingrich's ethics. Still, the appointment of four new ambassadors and the government's printer are hardly earthshaking.

From the New York Times:

Mr. Obama’s action will allow Mr. Cole and the other nominees — four ambassadors, as well as the official who runs the Government Printing Office — to serve for one year. The deputy White House chief of staff, Jim Messina, defended the move, saying Mr. Obama felt he had no choice, especially in Mr. Cole’s case.

“We’ve been working hard with the Republicans and have seen some movement forward,” said Mr. Messina, who is with the president here. “There were some that, for whatever reason, they could not help us with and we felt were mission critical, and clearly the deputy attorney general is a critical position to help enforce the laws of the land.”

I'm not a big fan of recess appointments. I would prefer the president respect the constitutional role of the Senate to advise and consent. Still, there is a current backlog of about 550 appointments languishing in the Senate, all of whom will have to be re-nominated once the 112th Congress convenes. The GOP have made it quite clear that there will be even more obstruction starting January 5, 2011, so, with the exception of appointments to the federal bench, President Obama will have to continue the practice of recess appointments.

Of course, changing the filibuster rule in the Senate would unclog the backlog, allowing for up-or-down votes on the nominees, but we all know that isn't going to happen. We're in for another two years of congressional dysfunction.

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