Wednesday, August 24, 2011

CotD Contest! And Recess Appointments

OK, readers, I need to outsource this one. I'm terribly curious about the level of message discipline among House Republicans. In particular: are they carefully refraining from calling this month a Congressional recess? I'll give a Catch of the Day to anyone who catches a House Republican using the dreaded "R" word.

The point, of course, is that the House is forcing the Senate to stay in (pro forma occasional) session in order to prevent recess appointments. As I've argued -- one more time over at Plum Line today -- I think they're wrong. I believe that Obama could and should simply declare that it's a recess for the purposes of the Constitutional appointment power, and go ahead and name someone anyway. For more, see Victor Williams last week, or my primer on the issue.

But I'm curious as to whether Republicans back in their districts or wherever they are have slipped up and admitted that it's a recess. So if anyone sees it, let me know (in comments here, email, or twitter). Granted, I'm not sure how often any Member of Congress uses the word "recess" normally, since it implies a vacation; Congressional breaks are usually called District Work Periods, and in fact Members do often work hard in their districts when they're not in session.


  1. The House Press Gallery has a big banner saying:
    "House Not In Session: August Recess Aug. 2, 2011 - Sept. 7. 2011".

  2. You don't perhaps think it appropriate to point out that the Democrats did precisely the same thing to Bush in 2008?

  3. Anon,

    See link; I've talked about that, including that Bush respected the 3 day precedent, before. But it's not the same -- that was the Senate doing it, and the majority of the Senate at that, and this time it's the House.

  4. Valid point. Another question: While I will grant that using pro forma sessions to prevent recess appointments is a cynical misuse of the rules, is it not similarly cynical to use recess appointments to avoid the confirmation process? Were not recess appointments supposed to be a means of filling critical positions that could not wait for Congres to re-convene? Isn't waiting for Congress to recess to submit candidates a subversion of the process?

  5. Well, the Constitution doesn't really say what the point of recess appointments is, but I think that's a reasonable interpretation. However, it's hard to imagine that the Framers anticipated that a minority of Senators could permanently block votes on numerous nominations -- and indeed, that really never happened until 2009, except for in the final year of a presidency.

    I'm not really a huge fan of recess appointments, but it's the one tool the president has to fight back against unprecedented GOP tactics on exec branch nominations.

  6. Concur.

    I'm pleased to have discovered your blog. Rational discussion of political issues has become a scarce commodity online.

  7. Let's not forget that the Senate actually had a previous question motion (ie, a way to kill off a debate with a 50%+1 vote) early in its history (I think 1806 to some date in the 19th century...see Sarah Binder for the actual dates). So, having an argument about what "the Founders meant" by recess appointments is doubly inappropriate. 1) the government they drew up is hardly close to what we're doing on appointments now, and 2) the Dahl point: just because some guys liked this idea when they were fricking INVENTING democracy 220+ years ago, that doesn't mean it's a good idea.


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