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Tilting at Windmills

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February 12, 2010

SENATE GOP BACKS DOWN AFTER RECESS APPOINTMENT THREAT.... There wasn't much doubt what President Obama had in mind for the congressional break that begins today. In light of the unprecedented number of holds Republicans have placed on key, high-level nominees, mostly for reasons that have nothing to do with qualifications, the White House seemed poised to use recess appointments for several pending officials.

As of last night, the Senate scurried to make this unnecessary.

Before leaving for the Presidents' Day break, the Senate on Thursday night confirmed -- by unanimous consent -- more than two dozen of President Obama's nominees to federal positions.

Mr. Obama and Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, had warned this week that the president might use the weeklong holiday break to make recess appointments, a threat underscoring his frustration with months of delays in confirming some key nominees.

Mike Allen reported that the president "won" the showdown with Senate Republicans, and last night's breakthrough was the result of a "tense exchange" between Obama and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Apparently, the president explained that he could no longer tolerate the "unprecedented" holds. When McConnell said Dems did the same thing to Bush that Republicans are doing now, "Obama disagreed, saying that when Bush made his first recess appointments, a handful of nominees had been waiting for more than a month. Obama had more than 60 waiting."

After the Senate approved the 27 high-level nominees, the White House issued a statement describing the process as "a good first step," but added, "[T]here are still dozens of nominees on hold who deserve a similar vote, and I will be looking for action from the Senate when it returns from recess. If they do not act, I reserve the right to use my recess appointment authority in the future."

A list of the 27 newly-approved officials is online, but it's worth noting that Craig Becker, the blocked National Labor Relations Board nominee, is still not getting the post for which he is qualified, and the three Pentagon nominees blocked by Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) will continue to wait for Senate confirmation.

So, last night represented meaningful progress for the White House -- and a victory for the notion of a functioning American government -- but there's obviously a great deal more work that needs to be done. That said, the leap forward will apparently take the option of recess appointments off the table -- for now.

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (32)

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Comments

I hope this show of backbone from Obama and his allies is a harbinger of things to come.

Posted by: Neil B on February 12, 2010 at 8:03 AM | PERMALINK

It's not that meaningful. What about the other 50 or so, including the bigger names? The Easter recess is a long wait, how many nominees will hang around?

Posted by: Mr. Prosser on February 12, 2010 at 8:07 AM | PERMALINK

Next bitch slap should be reconciliation.

Posted by: Dave on February 12, 2010 at 8:08 AM | PERMALINK

They can't let this go. Obama has to push when they return. The rest of the appointments have to be completed. I would suggest the term nuclear option should be commonly used by Senate Democrats and the leadership should suggest that if the unprecidented use of the filibuster continues it will ask Vice President Biden to make a ruling.

Posted by: Ron Byers on February 12, 2010 at 8:10 AM | PERMALINK

I want to know if there was a quiet guffaw when Sen. McConnell said the same thing happened to Prez. Shrub II.

Posted by: sduffys on February 12, 2010 at 8:12 AM | PERMALINK

Well, I guess the Republicans have made their concession for this year.

Now Obama can search for a "middle ground" -- maybe one where McConnell gets to nominate some of the remaining vacancies. I'm sure he can find a union-busting consultant to replace Craig Becker in that NLRB opening.


Posted by: SteveT on February 12, 2010 at 8:21 AM | PERMALINK

27 approved out of 63 stalled nominees is 43% of them. How this is a Democratic win is beyond me. Obama should still go for recess appointments, and he should make the case that the Republicans have broken the system by refusing to allow up or down votes, so the system needs to be fixed. This treatment is grossly abusive of the nominees, and is unfair to the American public.

Posted by: N.Wells on February 12, 2010 at 8:25 AM | PERMALINK

IMHO - Obama still looks like a wimp.

Posted by: Mark-NC on February 12, 2010 at 8:28 AM | PERMALINK

Pass the jobs bill using reconciliation.

Posted by: Ron Byers on February 12, 2010 at 8:29 AM | PERMALINK

I think Obama should recess appoint the rest of them anyway.

He doesn't get to use his Executive powers at the blessing of Republicans, he gets to use it regardless of them.

Honestly, when I first read the headline to this post I thought it was snark. It's telling when that is an initial reaction.

Posted by: terraformer on February 12, 2010 at 8:31 AM | PERMALINK

Who the heck does Obama think he is?

The only thing that is abusive is for The Chosen One to make any recess appointments. For a democrat president to make use of this means of appointing unqualified persons to positions is abusive and unfair to real Americans.

A fair way for Obama to seek a 'middle ground' would be for him to allow McConnell to decide on half of the appointees; of course with McConnell reserving a veto over the half that Obama selects.

This expression by The Chosen One of "my way or the highway" is only acceptable conduct by a republican president, who we know would be acting in the best interests of our country and its rightful rulers.

For Obama to use this route just adds further proof that he is a muslim socialist nazi who hates white americans and is intent upon destroying all of the values held firmly by true white Christian Americans.

Posted by: RepublicanPointOfView on February 12, 2010 at 8:37 AM | PERMALINK

If he doesn't get Becker in place, his likelihood of labor support goes way down.

Posted by: Amy on February 12, 2010 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK

He makes a threat and then backs down. It is exactly the wrong way to deal with a bully. What does the bully do. Gives him something meaningless and then continues being a bully. This guy, is a wimp and everyone by now knows it. That is the root of his problem. Now, to be fair, he has lots of reasons for being a wimp. His background, outsider status. He has no real allies in the permanent government. It is a lot easier to talk big than to act boldly. But he has shown time and time again that he can be rolled. That is a very dangerous signal to give out in this town. He needs to start delivering some major smackdowns and seventy recess appointments would have been a good start. A start. And he needs to begin with the MOST controversial nominees. The ones that are the most likely to cause howls. The problem with Barak is that is confrontation averse. This is a very bad quality to have in an executive.

Posted by: SW on February 12, 2010 at 8:51 AM | PERMALINK

We need a President who has real backbone not nicealy, nicealy he should make recess appointments now fill all vacant positions move on and tell the Republicans to go pound salt while he strengthens the government to lead us into a better future and away from the past he needs to become a TR and a FDR not a Hoover

Posted by: Keith Loomis on February 12, 2010 at 9:10 AM | PERMALINK

Obama is not bizarro-Bush. He doesn't operate the same way, and that's a good thing because he's focused on the long game, which is giving Republicans enough rope to hang themselves with.

Seems like a lot of you didn't vote for President so much as you voted for revenge.

Posted by: John S. on February 12, 2010 at 9:10 AM | PERMALINK

Seven out of nine Bush appointees to the NLRB were placed there with recess appointments. Send every person available to the msm with this message. Mention it in every press briefing. Throw down the gauntlet and promise a recess appointment if Becker is not confirmed before the recess.

Posted by: Tired liberal on February 12, 2010 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

Since the thugs have to show up for the HCR conference or look like pussies, may they released these 27 hostages so that Obama can less easily use the appts. as another example of thug obstructionism? Maybe these 27 were the least promising pork generators or the most conservative?

Posted by: Michael7843853 on February 12, 2010 at 9:35 AM | PERMALINK

I asked my friend Jack (who I consult about presidential leadership issues) what Obama should do about handling the Senate. He said, "Hire Cesar Millan from "The Dog Whisperer"". Or just rent the dvds and spend a day watching them. "You are the Pack Leader Dude!" Start acting like it. You are sending mixed signals and these hounds are out of control.

Posted by: SW on February 12, 2010 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

John S. said:
Obama is not bizarro-Bush. He doesn't operate the same way, and that's a good thing because he's focused on the long game, which is giving Republicans enough rope to hang themselves with.

Seems like a lot of you didn't vote for President so much as you voted for revenge.

I voted for someone who sounded like he understood that the status quo was unacceptable, unsustainable, and needed to be changed. Obama likes to talk about "building new foundations", but he doesn't understand that you have to tear down the building before you can re-build the foundation.

The problems with our Rube Goldberg health care system can't be solved by adding parts to make it even more complicated. And while Obama is giving the Republicans rope (and tax cuts, and earmarks and time in the media to make unchallenged lies), an American is dying every 12 minutes because they don't have health insurance.

Republican policies (and the Democrats that voted for them) brought the country to the brink of a second Great Depression. By acting like the fraudulent ponzi scheme of supply-side economics is a legitimate alternative to his policies, Obama is setting the country up for a return to those disastrous conservative policies.

Like I keep saying, when your house is on fire, you don't find a "middle ground" with the guy who says that what you really need to do is pour gasoline on the fire.


Posted by: SteveT on February 12, 2010 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

I'm still concerned he got rolled. What's to stop McConnell from coming back from recess, when there's no immediate recess appointment threat, and saying "Hey, we gave you some, but we have problems with the rest of them so we're going to hold them for several more months. SUCKER!!!!!"

We'll see.....

Posted by: Z. Mulls on February 12, 2010 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

Well, I guess the Republicans have made their concession for this year.

Wow, is that actually a concession that Republicans don't always win? How amazing. I'm quite sure this will be forgotten about by the end of the weekend and we'll be assured in comments on Monday that Democrats always lose because they never show any backbone.

As for your "house on fire" analogy, no, firemen don't compromise with arsonists. Unfortunately, we're not firemen and Republicans haven't done anything illegal. This is politics and there are definite limitations to what we can do. And for as much as you people seem to imagine that strong rhetoric and Republican-like boldness will carry us through, it's only because you choose to ignore reality.

Hell, most of you folks somehow imagine that Republicans steamrolled us when they were in Congress, despite the fact that you can only name a small handful of things they did when they were in charge (ie, taxcuts, Patriot Act, Iraq War, and almost nothing else). And I'd STILL like to hear the laundry list of horrible legislation they passed in 2005-2006. They were a do-nothing Congress that was less effective than our Congress.

The truth is that legislation is difficult when the minority party won't play along, and your "solutions" to fixing them will only make it harder going forward. Sometimes, bullies WANT you to fight back and Republicans would like nothing better than to be able to showcase radical abuse-of-power by Democrats going into the mid-terms. And you people seem intent on giving it to them.

But I agree with John S. Too many of you seem more intent on revenge and ramming things down Republican throats than you do with actually getting things done. So the fact that Obama won a showdown with Republicans today is entirely downplayed and will be yet another of his successes that you toss down the memoryhole.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on February 12, 2010 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

Bush took a take-no-prisoners approach and inflicted great damage on the country even though he certainly had no mandate in his first term, and arguably not in his second either. Obama had a huge mandate a year ago and has pissed it away. Bush's tactics weren't nice, but they were effective. Every time Obama tries to reach out to the Rethugs they bite his hand, and make fun of him for being a wuss. What is the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result? More likely it's the definition of stupidity.

Unless Obama wants to be remembered as a one-term mediocrity, he's got to find his cahones. TAKE NO PRISONERS!

Posted by: rRRk1 on February 12, 2010 at 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

Situation Reversed: Bush threatens recess appointments. Democratic minority backs down from filibusters and allows almost half of them to go through. This board would be filled with rants against spineless Democrats who always back down to Republican threats, and we'd all be assured that we can't support Democrats until they grow backbones.

And that's exactly what the Republicans face right now. Once the Tea Partiers hear about this, they'll rant about spineless Republicans folding to Democrats, yet again, and how they need to field their own candidates if they want to finally be able to stop Obama.

And had Republicans NOT compromised, then Obama would have done the recess appointments and the Tea Partiers would be ranting about Obama's radical abuse of power and how spineless Republicans need to be replaced by people who can finally be able to stop Obama. And the folks on this board who insist that Obama didn't do enough still wouldn't be giving credit to Obama, because he only did what he was supposed to do.

It's a win-win world for people who hate their opponents and enjoy complaining about the impurities of the people we hire to fight our battles. After all, there's always SOMETHING they could have done better. But hey, if politics is so easy, why don't some of you try it for awhile and see how far your strong rhetoric and bold policies take you.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on February 12, 2010 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

Bush took a take-no-prisoners approach and inflicted great damage on the country

Yes, and he's considered a total disgrace, even among the people who once worshipped him. By ignoring the political consequences of his actions and imagining that he could create his own reality, he suffered greatly. He barely won re-election against a relatively weak opponent, and spent almost his entire second term as a lame-duck.

Yeah, repeating mistakes is a sign of insanity. So why would anyone want to repeat BUSH'S mistakes? Because his policies stemmed from his hubris and boldness, and had he been more policially saavy, he wouldn't be the disgrace he is. The Karl Rove "Enemy Be Damned" policy only makes your enemies fight more. Sure, he was pushing bad policies; but it was political deafness that hurt him more.

And just to make something clear: There are Tea Partiers already ready to rebel, and the more radical Obama's actions are, the more they'll be likely to do it. Seriously. This isn't just politics. Push things too hard, and "Take No Prisoners" won't just be a figurative phrase.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on February 12, 2010 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

rKKi is right. Y'all should pay careful attention.


"The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves,


Unless the filibuster in the Senate can be broken, very little reform of anything is going to happen. The filibuster is a parliamentary maneuver requiring at present 60 votes for cloture to be able to vote on a bill, nominee, whatever. However, it is no big secret that the filibuster can be broken (probably for good) by 50 votes plus the VP. The nuclear option is perhaps the best known filibuster-breaking parliamentary maneuver. Google it, if you don't know how it works. It's not Rocket Science. Even Pepublicans can easily figure it out. It takes guts, not brains, to execute-- and in Shakespearean terms, therein lies the problem for Democrats.

You think the Republicans would not have used the nuclear option in 2005 if what they wanted wasn't handed to them by a "Gang of 14?? [They wanted a set of right-wing judges approved for Federal bench positions -- and they got most of what they wanted by threatening the nuclear option.] You think they wouldn't use it again to pass whatever once they again become a majority? You think “Senate Tradition” is going to stop them -- like it now paralyzes Democratic Senators and many pundits from seriously advocating breaking the filibuster?? Get Real.

If there are not 50 votes to end a filibuster, then passing bills or amendments to really reform or improve health care, climate change, judicial nominations, whatever, are going to be dysfunctional exercises in "pass inadequate bills and pronounce those bills as ground-breaking". And hope the American voters don’t notice. Voters on average may be generally uninformed, but they are not THAT dumb.

In health care and other issues, Obama and Senate Democrats , most Pundits, and many Broderesque -bloggers constantly reinforce a meme that liberal or progressive Democrats are easily rolled by those making intransigent demands. This reinforces a long-standing meme that Progressives/Liberals are wimps, wusses, chumps-- pick your term. McCain, Coker, DeMint and most Republicans may be batshit bonkers pushing insane ideologically-based solutions, but they appear very willing to take a lot of flack to push their agenda.

To coin a phrase, politics ain't beanbags. Voters consistently reject candidates they view as weak wimps, no matter what their ideology or personal heroism (Google: Wilkie, Dewey, Stevenson, Stassen, McGovern, Rockefeller, Carter, Dukakis, Gore, Kerry, etc).

Posted by: gdb on February 12, 2010 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

Dr. Biobrain... from a Dr. Biobrain. You don't get it. Bush is a disgrace NOT because of his aggressive use of political hardball (he's often admired for that), but because of his policies. You go vote for wimps. Most wont-- biobrains or no.

Posted by: gdb on February 12, 2010 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

Dr. Biobrain... from a Dr. Biobrain. You don't get it. Bush is a disgrace NOT because of his aggressive use of political hardball (he's often admired for that), but because of his policies.

But they go hand-in-hand. He wouldn't have chosen those policies if he didn't have the hardball strategy, because he imagined he could create his own reality. And more importantly, by strong-arming his policies through, he pissed us off and made us more energized. Had they not been such dicks, we wouldn't have worked so hard to fight them.

Political strategy needs to have more in mind than just getting what you want. Short-term victories are nothing if they end up costing you in the long-run. And if Obama had boldly grabbed the progressive policies that many folks here want and ignored political consequences, I definitely believe he'd be far less popular right now. Even if a stronger stimulus bill had improved the economy more, he'd be less liked if Republicans could show everyone what a jerk he was about it. And had he passed a single-payer healthcare bill last year that git rid of everyone's insurance (as many here wanted), his poll numbers would be in the toilet and Republicans would be assuring everyone that they'd get their insurance back once they took control next year...which they would most likely do.

Reality is that boldness DOESN'T win votes. People DON'T automatically flock to strong politicians. Clinton was least popular when he tried the hardest, and most popular when he was being lynched by Republicans. As it turns out, people hate jerks. And the more political capital Bush spent to push his agenda, the worse he did. Sure, his policies were bad. But it was in his insistence of boldly ignoring political realities that was his real downfall.

And again, Bush DIDN'T have many successes. He was a lameduck his entire second term, and you can only name perhaps five legislative successes he had in his entire first term. Why do you people pretend otherwise? All that boldness, and so little to show for it.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on February 12, 2010 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

Not good enough, Obama. Some of us are concerned about a functioning government, not a political win. Sixty percent of the nominees held up still need confirmation while their positions sit vacant. Fill those positions now.

Posted by: doubtful on February 12, 2010 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

If Obama knows his nominees have a majority of support in the senate what difference does it make to go ahead with recess appointments?

The holds with continue not for reasons dealing with qualifications but only as bargaining chips. At least appoint Dawn Johnsen.

Posted by: bjobotts on February 12, 2010 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

This blog looks like it's got a bad infestation of Firebaggers. Other than Dr. Biobrain, who argues using facts and logic, there's almost nothing other than concern trolling.

Go back to Firedog Lake concerned trolls. Your belly ache whining will be more appreciated there.

Posted by: Dr. Morpheus on February 12, 2010 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

looks like someone doesn't know the definition of concern trolling. Ironic considering your concern regarding 'belly aching'.

Posted by: SW on February 12, 2010 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

"Republicans haven't done anything illegal. "
Doctor Biobrain on February 12, 2010 at 10:33

Let's let The Hague decide that, shall we?

Posted by: smartalek on February 12, 2010 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK
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