Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 30, 2010

NO RECESS APPOINTMENTS FOR YOU.... Congress, as you've no doubt heard, is done until mid-November, with lawmakers headed to their home states and districts to campaign for the midterms. Any chance President Obama might use the opportunity to fill some key vacancies with recess appointments? Actually, no.

The two parties' Senate leaders -- Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) -- quietly struck a deal this week. The Minority Leader agreed to let the Senate do its job and confirm 54 non-controversial administration nominees. None of the confirmations applied to judicial nominees -- the court crisis continues -- and there are still several dozen pending nominees whose lives are on hold for no reason other than GOP pettiness, but in his majestic graciousness, McConnell agreed to let 54 qualified officials, all of whom had been blocked for months, go to work. The rest may or may not get a vote during the lame-duck session.

And what did McConnell get in exchange? He had one demand: no recess appointments.

Democratic leaders have agreed to schedule pro-forma sessions of the Senate every week over the next six weeks, a move that will prevent Obama from making emergency appointments, according to Senate sources briefed on the talks.

Democrats agreed to the pro forma sessions to keep Republicans from sending Obama's most controversial nominees back to him while lawmakers are out of town. Such a move would have forced the president to resubmit the nominees to the Senate and Democrats to start their confirmation processes (including hearings) all over again. [...]

Under Senate rules, the chamber may only carry over pending nominees during an extended recess if senators agree by unanimous consent. Senators rarely invoke this rule, but McConnell threatened to object unless Democrats agreed to prevent Obama from making recess appointments. The deal saved several of Obama's most controversial nominees from a reset.

Dems, in other words, get something out of this. Some ambassadorial, U.S. Attorney, and U.S. Marshall offices now have officials in place, and other key nominees are still alive.

But we're still dealing with degrees of Republican abuse -- the Senate GOP blocked votes on the confirmed nominees, is still blocking votes on many more nominees, and hatched a scheme to allow some progress on basic Senate procedure in exchange for blocking a legitimate presidential power. (Obama has one tool available to circumvent the broken Senate, so McConnell's "deal" made sure it was taken away, at least through mid-November.)

Alex Pareene added, "This deal getting struck this time basically means that every future Senate minority leader will hold up every future president's nominees until getting the same deal -- which means that, in lieu of Senate rules reform, we've just seen the end of recess appointments."

Steve Benen 3:45 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (50)

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Comments

i'll bet dollars to donuts sharon angle has bigger balls than harry reid.

and while i'd never want her in the senate instead of him, i think my two year old niece, who is afraid of loud noises, would make a better leader that reid.

any vertebrate would make a better leader than reid.

Posted by: ahoy polloi on September 30, 2010 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

This party is over...

Posted by: Trollop on September 30, 2010 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

Appeasement does not work Mr. Reid, just ask Chamberlain! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on September 30, 2010 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

Why would they agree to this deal?

Democratic WIMPS!

Posted by: AlphaLiberal on September 30, 2010 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

Silly Steve... As everyone with a brain knows, only *GOP* minority leaders will demand this procedure to stop recess appointments. Democratic minority leaders would never stoop to mere procedural tactics to push their agenda.

Posted by: S9 on September 30, 2010 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

so the minority leader is dictating terms to the majority leader, what do they do if god forbid the senate goes Republican?

Posted by: Jamie on September 30, 2010 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

All Reid has to do is renege on the deal, not hold the pro forma session, and let Obama do his recess appointments. There's nothing unconstitutional about not honoring a "gentleman's agreement", and since McConnell and the repubs aren't gentlemen, (or even ethical), they don't deserve to have their deals honored.

Posted by: Tim H on September 30, 2010 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

I went ballistic last nite when I saw this maneuver they pulled. Reid gets no money from me. In fact, I am done giving money to Dems. They are more then wimps; they are back stabbing weasels. I will vote for them only because Rs are much worse. But this act on the part of the Dems has left a very bad taste in my mouth. I may leave the party.

Only Obama still has my support.

Posted by: Alki on September 30, 2010 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

Clearly, this demonstrates the need for the White House to crack down on liberals/.

Posted by: AlphaLiberal on September 30, 2010 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

The party never really started.

Posted by: Jamie on September 30, 2010 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

Alki, I stopped giving to Dem Committees a few years back and now give to key progressive Dems (Feingold!), ActBlue, Progressive Change COmmittee and the like. LEt's strengthen the fighting progressive option.

Posted by: AlphaLiberal on September 30, 2010 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

Why couldn't Obama have said "screw you, Mitch" and recess appointed a couple hundred, instead? Make an issue of it?

this is the thing. NO FIGHT IN THE DEMOCRATS. (Unless they're fighting their base).

Posted by: AlphaLiberal on September 30, 2010 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

Reid, makes a very impressive gumby man. I really do get tired of so few adults standing up to the abusive nature, personalities and behavior of republicans.

The whole reason I voted the democratic ticket to was to have some opposition to the irresponsible republicans. What I keep seeing over and over and over are dems acting more like battered spouses than responsible thinking adults.

Posted by: Silver Owl on September 30, 2010 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

"All Reid has to do is renege on the deal, not hold the pro forma session, and let Obama do his recess appointments. There's nothing unconstitutional about not honoring a "gentleman's agreement", and since McConnell and the repubs aren't gentlemen, (or even ethical), they don't deserve to have their deals honored."
------------------------------------------------------
-EXACTLY. Maybe he can do the country some good. He lied about halping to pass the progressive agenda (DREAM, DADT) so why can't he lie to give liberals a little breathing room?

Posted by: Stackhouse on September 30, 2010 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

There is no Democratic party. A party has to have principles. A party has to have leadership. The Democrats have neither. Over and over again they shit on the rest of us, yet in-basket is filled with solicitations for contributions. I wonder where the money really goes.

Posted by: Ron Byers on September 30, 2010 at 4:18 PM | PERMALINK

All Reid has to do is renege on the deal, not hold the pro forma session, and let Obama do his recess appointments.

...and then McConnell will withhold his vote on unanimous consent for the Senate to consider Obama's nominees from before the recess, and, as Steve pointed out, the nomination process for all of them starts from square one.

Reid simply has no such leverage in this deal. McConnell has the last word.

Posted by: Gregory on September 30, 2010 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK

But we're still dealing with degrees of Republican abuse

We're dealing with Democratic spinelessness.

Alex Pareene added, "This deal getting struck this time basically means that every future Senate minority leader will hold up every future president's nominees until getting the same deal

Don't worry. That won't happen when the Senate minority leader is a Democrat.


We will NEVER learn.

Posted by: kc on September 30, 2010 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK

@AlphaLiberal: my understanding is that there will be no recess for Obama to make appointments during because Reid has agreed "to schedule pro-forma sessions of the Senate every week over the next six weeks."

Whether Obama would have made appointments is up for debate, but at this point, it's moot, because he won't have the opportunity.

Posted by: ozoozol on September 30, 2010 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK

Fine with me if he wants to renege on his deal with Mitch. They've reneged on plenty of deals with the Dem base, after all, and will renege on more.

Plus, after the Chancellor DeMint stunt, why reward the obstructionism?

Harry, just pretend for an hour that McConnell is a Democratic supporter. Toss him under that Democratic bus.

Posted by: AlphaLiberal on September 30, 2010 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

[i]Democratic minority leaders would never stoop to mere procedural tactics to push their agenda.[/i]

The only thing worse than a broken senate is a senate that is only broken when Republicans are in the minority. Democrats had best abuse the institution when they find themselves in the minority. Only then will reform become a possibility.

Posted by: OB on September 30, 2010 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, ozoozol, I get that but Reid must have worked this out with the WH.

Some brass stones Mr Rahm has, eh?

Posted by: AlphaLiberal on September 30, 2010 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

But all those who feel that the democratic party deserves knee-jerk support, you feel free to keep saying that the lefties are whining. The list of reasons to be disappointed in Obama and Senate Majority "leader," Harry "Spineless" Reid grows longer. Obama's not party to this, so why not just appoint a bunch of people? Oh, that's right. Obama almost never uses recess appointments. He's busy being the scold in chief to what used to be his most loyal constituents.

Sick to my stomach.

Posted by: Sisyphus on September 30, 2010 at 4:25 PM | PERMALINK

Sisyphus, I believe our marching orders are:

1) STFU
2) Clap louder

Posted by: AlphaLiberal on September 30, 2010 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK

The crap Obama has ti deal with inside his own party is just mind blowing.

Posted by: impik on September 30, 2010 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

"which means that, as long as there is a Democratic President, in lieu of Senate rules reform, we've just seen the end of recess appointments."

There, I corrected it for you.

Posted by: DBaker on September 30, 2010 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

impik, we have a right to expect the people we support, give to, work for, not be total fricking door mats!

Posted by: AlphaLiberal on September 30, 2010 at 4:31 PM | PERMALINK

Democratic leaders have agreed to schedule pro-forma sessions of the Senate every week over the next six weeks,[...]

"Funny"... When Dumbya was the presnit, it was Democrats, who had to waste their time on keeping pro-forma sessions, to prevent Bush from nominating who knows what sort of unqualified assholes. Specifically, Jim Webb showed up every week, opened and closed a session, thus maintaining continuity.

Now that we have a Dem president who's not been allowed to get two thirds of his -- perfectly qualified -- nominations confirmed and might, perchance, use the procedure to counteract that disaster... it's still the *Democrats'* responsibility to keep up that farce??? The abused wife syndrome doesn't begin to describe those limp noodles...

Posted by: exlibra on September 30, 2010 at 4:33 PM | PERMALINK

Dems are lifegurads you hire who turn out to be scared of the water.

Posted by: Moxo on September 30, 2010 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, it's the kind of agreement the White House would have seen before it was made public, but we're left to guess whether the agreement was struck with or without Obama's support. Of course, it says something about this administration that we find it plausible for Obama to back it.

Posted by: ozoozol on September 30, 2010 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

Alpha Liberal, I already use that approach of giving to candidates I like. What I did today is unsubscribe to H. Reid's campaign emails. Then I wrote to him on his senatorial email acct and explained very carefully why I unsubscribed and will not give him any money this cycle. Maybe if they know we are watching, they won't be so cavalier in the future. Then again, Reid is a punk and probably doesn't care.

Posted by: Alki on September 30, 2010 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

Good job, Alki. They won't take us seriously until we get tough with them.

That said, I am volunteering to help so the progressive progress does not come at the cost of Republican gains.

Posted by: AlphaLiberal on September 30, 2010 at 4:51 PM | PERMALINK

Wait a minute - I don't think this is that big of a deal. Don't recess appointments expire at the end of each Congress? Wouldn't a recess appointment now expire in Dec/Jan? I don't think that's really giving away the store, is it?
Anybody else confirm or clarify my understanding of this?

Posted by: andy on September 30, 2010 at 4:59 PM | PERMALINK

Andy, that's what TPM says but how, then, can any recess appointments be made at all?

Posted by: AlphaLiberal on September 30, 2010 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

that's what I don't get - why would we want to make a recess appointment at this point in time - unless for symbolic purposes only? As far as goin forward in the future - I think that's going to be just like the filibuster - neither party is going to want to do anything drastic to change it because they both rely on it when they need it - unless I'm misunderstanding your point...

Posted by: andy on September 30, 2010 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

I actually thought at one time, especially after we got health care through the congress, that I was witnessing the end of the Republican party. Now I have finally realized that I am actually witnessing the end of the Democratic party. Without a spine we are headed down the drain.

Posted by: James at home on September 30, 2010 at 5:31 PM | PERMALINK

Recess appointments expire at the end of the NEXT session. So does Obama need to wait until after the lame duck session to make recess appointments that will be good for two years? I believe that is how it works. So maybe Reid didn't give much away.

Posted by: Tim H on September 30, 2010 at 5:44 PM | PERMALINK

I found this comment at Kevin Drum's site:

"Actually, this isn't as dumb as it seems. The Constitution requires that a recess appointment be terminated at the end of the congressional session (i.e. year) after the year in which it is made. So any appointments he makes now would have to end after 2011; they can't be renewed without Senate approval.

"But if the Dems hold control of the chamber next year, then they can recess and he can make his appointments, and they will last through 2012.

"If, on the other hand, the Dems lose control of the chamber, he can make the appointments after the lame duck, and then he'll at least have that one year. Yes, he'll lose another month or two waiting for that all to shake out, but they probably figure it's worth the cost."

Posted by: pol on September 30, 2010 at 5:44 PM | PERMALINK

Since when does Harry Reid tell the President what to do? What am I missing here????

Posted by: SF on September 30, 2010 at 6:33 PM | PERMALINK

I just published a post about this topic. I think Steve's take misses the point, but in a subtle way.

http://phillycooke.blogspot.com/2010/09/essential-asymmetry-of-american.html

Posted by: PhillyCooke on September 30, 2010 at 7:14 PM | PERMALINK

Thank you pol for your information on recess appointments.
As no one has amended their previous remarks, I presume they were simply waiting for something to whine about.
Typical...

Posted by: Doug on September 30, 2010 at 7:59 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with
Tim H on September 30, 2010 at 4:07 PM

Posted by: Bonnie on September 30, 2010 at 9:13 PM | PERMALINK

Here's the thing. There already WAS a deal on judicial appointments. It was the deal cut by the Gang of 14 not to filibuster judges except in "extraordinary circumstances". In return, the GOP wouldn't exercise the nuclear option. Collins and Snowe were two members of the Gang.

If the Democrats had any balls, they would have given Snowe and Collins the same deal in reverse. Either Snowe and Collins agree to not filibuster any of Obama's appointments except in "extraordinary circumstances" or the Dems kill the filibuster via the nuclear option.

That's your fucking deal. Stop stonewalling on appointments or lose your favorite tool. Take it or leave it.

Dems are just a bunch of chickenshits.

Posted by: square1 on September 30, 2010 at 9:36 PM | PERMALINK

Reid should renege on the deal and go home and make sure the Senate stays closed. Obama then makes recess appointments of all pending nominees.

The next step will be to continue to make all appointments recess appointments. Don't even bother to send them to Senate, except in a pro forma manner. The Senate refuses to consent, so its power to confirm should disappear along with the War Power, given away long ago.

Posted by: Edward Furey on September 30, 2010 at 10:56 PM | PERMALINK

The culture of corruption Republicans are playing Russian Roulette with our country and the future of our nation's children, except all the chambers are full and the Republicans are only holding the gun up to the heads of Democrats.

Posted by: The Oracle on September 30, 2010 at 11:19 PM | PERMALINK

Agreeing to this was plain stupid. There was nothing stopping Obama from making those 54 appointments as recess appointments in addition to the others that need to be done. Reid essentially gave away the store.

Posted by: Texas Aggie on October 1, 2010 at 12:43 AM | PERMALINK

Should the Republicans ever obtain the majority, they will suddenly be able to govern with only 51 votes, because they aren't wimps. They will aggressively bend the rules to get their way. They don't believe in fair play, they believe in doing whatever is necessary to win.

If the Democrats maintain power, then they need to revise the rules next term. The Republicans certainly would. "But what if we change the rules to abolish the filibuster and then the Republicans take over next time?", the wimps will ask. The answer is simple: if the public votes a party into power, that party deserves to govern, and if the public doesn't like the result, they can vote that party out again.

Posted by: Joe Buck on October 1, 2010 at 1:08 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, though, I don't think Reid gave away all that much. A recess appointment lasts only until the next Congress starts, which is early January 2011, so any recess appointees would only be able to work for a bit less than 3 months.

Posted by: Joe Buck on October 1, 2010 at 1:10 AM | PERMALINK

Joe Buck, it is a good point that recess appointments would only last 3 months.
Recess appointments should have happened instantly when the Republicans started all this obstructionism.
And if Republicans block the rule change in January, Obama needs to make instant recess appointments.

Posted by: Joel Patterson on October 1, 2010 at 5:38 AM | PERMALINK

Christ almighty. It turns out that this agreement has no practical negative consequences for Dems at all, since any recess appointments would go away in a couple of months anyhow. And the backlog is down to a couple of dozen, which is greatly reduced. And yet someone we get the usual rage against the evil Obama? Don't you people ever get tired of going off half-cocked and misinformed?

Posted by: Marc on October 1, 2010 at 8:20 AM | PERMALINK

They expire after the NEXT session, not the current one. You actually think the Republicans would be stupid enough to make such a useless deal with no political upside? The only thing they are competent ad is politics, unlike our guys.

Posted by: bay of arizona on October 1, 2010 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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