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Recess appointments

Old 04-05-07, 01:01 AM
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Recess appointments

Congress is not in session right now. Taking advantage of this opportunity, President Bush today made three recess appointments. He appointed Sam Fox as Ambassador to Belgium; he appointed Susan Dudley to the OMB; and he appointed Andrew Biggs to the Social Security Administration.

All three had already been nominated for their respective posts. All three had met stiff opposition in Congress -- Fox because he was one of the leading backers of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth; Dudley because of Democratic objections to her views on issues such as arsenic limits in drinking water, air bags and workplace injuries; and Biggs because he is a fierce advocate for Social Security privatization.

None of the three were voted on in the Senate (Fox because the President withdrew the nomination before a vote occurred; the other two were stalled in committee).

A few years ago, Ambassador Bolton got sent to the United Nations on a recess appointment after his nomination was fillibustered in the Senate.

This use of the recess appointment is not behvior that is unique to President Bush. I remember conservatives and Republicans raising holy hell when President Clinton used recess appointments to place Bill Lan Lee as Assistant AG for the Civil Rights Division and to place James Hormel as ambassador to Luxembourg. Both Lee and Hormel had run into Senate opposition (I don't remember offhand whether either ever made it to the point of a confirmation vote).

According to wikipedia, President Reagan made 243 recess appointments in 8 years. President George H.W. Bush made 77 in his single term. President Clinton made 140 recess appointments. Wikipedia only has statistics through August 2005; at that point, President Bush had made 106 recess appointments (all the more remarkable when you consider the fact that for most of his presidency prior to 2006, he was dealing with a friendly Congress).

I don't like the use of the recess appointment to place a nominee who would otherwise not get confirmed.

The recess appointment was created at a time when Congress was in session for a relatively short time each year. Without the power to make recess appointments, a president might have to go eight or nine months with a position vacant. Now, however, Congress is in session most of the year. The rationale for recess appointments seems quaint.

Unfortunately, short of a Constitutional Amendment, I don't think there's anything that can be done about it.
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Old 04-05-07, 05:08 AM
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Advise and consent should deal with the worthiness of the candidate to the position not whether or not the candidate pisses a senator off politically.
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Old 04-05-07, 06:37 AM
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Congress is in session most of the year.
They should/could be in session most of the year, but it seems like every time you turn around they are going into recess. I could be wrong but didn't congress only meet something like 144 days last year? Overall I agree w/ you though, recess appointments should be the exception not the norm.
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Old 04-05-07, 07:31 AM
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Compare the number of legislative working days of this congress with the last one at this time in the session.

The Easter (or Spring) Recess has been observed for a long time. It's nothing new. Besides - this time gives the Democrats time to see how the public is reacting to the Iraq War Supplementals both houses of congress passed.

Not to get all upset - they'll be back April 16th.
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Old 04-05-07, 08:18 AM
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Originally Posted by nemein
They should/could be in session most of the year, but it seems like every time you turn around they are going into recess. I could be wrong but didn't congress only meet something like 144 days last year? Overall I agree w/ you though, recess appointments should be the exception not the norm.
i don't understand what the big deal about this is. most of the work is done behind closed doors and via email anyway. even the hearings are mostly pomp and for show. always has been
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Old 04-05-07, 08:37 AM
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Most of the work of congress is done by committees.

Most of those committee sessions are open to the public.
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Old 04-05-07, 08:42 AM
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and Biggs because he is a fierce advocate for Social Security privatization.
How can you nominate someone to a position in an agency that he doesn't support.

The fact that he's associated with the Cato Institute is reason enough for disqualification for the position.
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Old 04-05-07, 08:48 AM
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GOP response, 2000-2006:
The President has the right to appoint anyone he wants, and the Congress should just acquiese to his selection.

GOP response, 1992-2000:
These people don't work for the President -- they work for the United States of America! Recess appointments are an abuse of power! Where's Ken Starr? What are you going to do about this, boy?

Having said that... I think Bush has now completely shrugged off the idea of striving to work with the Democratic Congress in order to establish some kind of late-term "legacy", and he's now in full-scale partisan warfare mode. Between his open conflicts with the Dems over Iraq, Iran and the AG fiasco, not to mention threatened vetoes of everything from reforming Medicare Part D to the minimum wage hike... I don't see anything of substance getting accomplished until 2008.

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Old 04-05-07, 08:52 AM
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Originally Posted by classicman2
How can you nominate someone to a position in an agency that he doesn't support.
That's par for the course. I think Jon Stewart made fun of that in America, The Book where they had a multiple choice listing of nominees, who they were lobbyists for, and what position they had been nominated for. In each case, the person was being nominated to a position of control over a group they had been trying to weaken as a lobbyist.



Originally Posted by NCMojo
GOP response, 2000-2006:
The President has the right to appoint anyone he wants, and the Congress should just acquiese to his selection.

GOP response, 1992-2000:
These people don't work for the President -- they work for the United States of America! Recess appointments are an abuse of power! Where's Ken Starr? What are you going to do about this, boy?
Yeah, but you have to admit that it's more of a partisan thing than a Repub thing. Both sides use the "do as I say, not as I do" approach where it's "for the best of the country" if they do it but it's "underhanded politics that thwart the will of the people" if the other side does it.

I think Bush's handling of recess appointments is getting a harsher spotlight than other Presidents because of his other actions that have been seen as stretching or outright ignoring the Constitution.

Last edited by MovieExchange; 04-05-07 at 09:04 AM.
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Old 04-05-07, 09:02 AM
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Considering that most Senators who object to nominees do so for political reasons rather than on the merits (whether the nominee is qualified for the post or not), I find it hard to criticize the use of recess appointments. If I were a President, I use them frequently as well, particularly for judicial appointments.
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Old 04-05-07, 10:06 AM
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Originally Posted by Red Dog
Considering that most Senators who object to nominees do so for political reasons rather than on the merits (whether the nominee is qualified for the post or not), I find it hard to criticize the use of recess appointments. If I were a President, I use them frequently as well, particularly for judicial appointments.
f the President selects nominees for political reasons (and all presidents do so), isn't it fair for Congress to consider political reasons in performing its advise and consent function?
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Old 04-05-07, 10:10 AM
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Originally Posted by JasonF
f the President selects nominees for political reasons (and all presidents do so), isn't it fair for Congress to consider political reasons in performing its advise and consent function?

Not if they are otherwise qualified for the position.

See: John G. Roberts, Jr.
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Old 04-05-07, 10:19 AM
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Originally Posted by classicman2
How can you nominate someone to a position in an agency that he doesn't support.
Does the name Bill Bennett ring any bells?
Originally Posted by classicman2
The fact that he's associated with the Cato Institute is reason enough for disqualification for the position.
At least on this issue you are a model of consistency.
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Old 04-05-07, 10:22 AM
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Originally Posted by Red Dog
Not if they are otherwise qualified for the position.

See: John G. Roberts, Jr.
Why not -- particularly in light of the example you've chosen? Why does the president have a role in shaping the politics of a co-equal branch but the Senate does not?

I can see the argument, to some degree, when you're talking about an executive appointment. Even there, though, I think there are limits.

What if the President wanted to appoint an Attorney General who is extremely qualified but has an announced intention to devote 95% of DOJ resources toward prosecuting people in possession of half an ounce or less of marijuana?

What if the President wanted to appoint a Secretary of State who is otherwise qualified but has announced intentions to cut off all diplomatic contact with the United Kingdom, the European Union, and Canada?

These are extreme examples, but if you accept that Congress could legitimately consider these policy positions, why can they not legitimitely consider (for example) whether the proposed head of the SSA wishes to dismantle the agency?
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Old 04-05-07, 10:24 AM
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Originally Posted by JasonF
What if the President wanted to appoint an Attorney General who is extremely qualified but has an announced intention to devote 95% of DOJ resources toward prosecuting people in possession of half an ounce or less of marijuana?

What if the President wanted to appoint a Secretary of State who is otherwise qualified but has announced intentions to cut off all diplomatic contact with the United Kingdom, the European Union, and Canada?

These are extreme examples, but if you accept that Congress could legitimately consider these policy positions, why can they not legitimitely consider (for example) whether the proposed head of the SSA wishes to dismantle the agency?

I would vote for the confirmation of all such nominees. And then call the President a douchebag in public.
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Old 04-05-07, 10:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Red Dog
I would vote for the confirmation of all such nominees. And then call the President a douchebag in public.
At least you're consistent.

You remind me of Oliver Wendell Holmes -- "If the country wants to go to hell, it's my job to help them."
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Old 04-05-07, 10:33 AM
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Originally Posted by JasonF
At least you're consistent.

You should have known this already. I previously said that John Ashcroft should be confirmed to the A.G. position even though he was/is a douchebag.
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Old 04-05-07, 10:33 AM
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Originally Posted by JasonF
What if the President wanted to appoint an Attorney General who is extremely qualified but has an announced intention to devote 95% of DOJ resources toward prosecuting people in possession of half an ounce or less of marijuana?

What if the President wanted to appoint a Secretary of State who is otherwise qualified but has announced intentions to cut off all diplomatic contact with the United Kingdom, the European Union, and Canada?
Could a person hold those positions and genuinely be deemed competent? I suppose on the former, sure. I mean, we all know pot is the greatest threat to the health and safety of the country there is, but I don't think anyone could consider a diplomat competent who doesn't understand something so basic as the importance to the US as a good relationship with other western powers.
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Old 04-05-07, 11:08 AM
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Originally Posted by JasonF
Why not -- particularly in light of the example you've chosen? Why does the president have a role in shaping the politics of a co-equal branch but the Senate does not?

I can see the argument, to some degree, when you're talking about an executive appointment. Even there, though, I think there are limits.

What if the President wanted to appoint an Attorney General who is extremely qualified but has an announced intention to devote 95% of DOJ resources toward prosecuting people in possession of half an ounce or less of marijuana?

What if the President wanted to appoint a Secretary of State who is otherwise qualified but has announced intentions to cut off all diplomatic contact with the United Kingdom, the European Union, and Canada?

These are extreme examples, but if you accept that Congress could legitimately consider these policy positions, why can they not legitimitely consider (for example) whether the proposed head of the SSA wishes to dismantle the agency?

because it's going to take congressional support to dismantle SSA
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Old 04-05-07, 11:10 AM
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Originally Posted by al_bundy
because it's going to take congressional support to dismantle SSA

Very true.

And if the DOJ started devoting 95% of their resources to marijuana prosecutions, they might start having some funding issues.
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Old 04-05-07, 11:21 AM
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Originally Posted by wendersfan
Does the name Bill Bennett ring any bells?
That's who I first thought of too.

Considering how that worked out some people should encourage appointments of people to agencies they don't support. Not to mention that sometimes radical treatment is needed to keep a patient alive.
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Old 04-05-07, 11:30 AM
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Originally Posted by wendersfan
Does the name Bill Bennett ring any bells?

At least on this issue you are a model of consistency.
The Cato Institute has shown time and time again that they have no credibility as far as Social Security is concerned.

All one needs to do is to witness what occurred a couple of years ago where there were hearings on Bush's scheme to privatize Social Security. Biggs testified.
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Old 04-05-07, 11:34 AM
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To permit (confirm) Biggs to run SSA is akin to permitting someone like George McGovern to run DOD or Ron Paul for Secretary of State.
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