Congress loves its recesses, but the 112th couldn’t leave for the Presidents Day break until they’d argued about recess.
Specifically, recess appointments in the Senate. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) delivered an address on the floor questioning the constitutionality of President Obama’s early January appointments to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and National Labor Relations Board — even though the Senate was in pro-forma session about every 72 hours over the break.
Lee said the president’s action will have a direct impact on how he weighs Obama’s nominations in the future.
“In the past, I have given the president’s judicial nominees great deference,” he said. “Both in the Judiciary Committee and on the floor, I have voted in favor of the vast majority of President Obama’s nominees, including many which whom I fundamentally disagree. But I can do so no more.”
The senator warned the president that there will be a “new standard for confirmation.”
“Both today, and in the coming days, I will join with other senators to act as a check on the president’s unconstitutional conduct by voting against some nominees,” Lee said. “I expect that many of my Republican colleagues, and in time some of my Democratic colleagues, will rise in defense of the Constitution and vote against President Obama’s nominees until such time that he takes actions to restore the Senate’s full constitutional right to advise and consent to his nominees.”
The response of one of his Democratic colleagues wasn’t so cooperative.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Republicans were acting “out of spite” even on non-controversial nominees, and threatened to give the White House a bit of advice.
“If something doesn’t break here I am going to recommend to the president that he recess-appoint all of these nominees, every one of them,” Reid said. “It’s not as if there isn’t some way to respond to this.”
There are currently 90 outstanding nominees, ranging from ambassadors to Labor Department appointments. “These are the president’s nominations and he should have the right to have these people working in his administration,” Reid said.
Lee fired back at Reid in an afternoon statement.
“It is odd, to say the least, for the Senate Majority Leader to suggest that unless we stop responding to the President’s unconstitutional actions, more unconstitutional actions will follow,” said Lee. “Senator Reid has condoned and encouraged further use of President Obama’s unprecedented practice of making unconstitutional ‘recess’ appointments even when the Senate does not consider itself to be in recess.
“As Majority Leader, Senator Reid has a responsibility to defend the rightful prerogatives of the Senate against encroachment by the President,” he said. “His failure has the potential to last long beyond this administration or any partisan gains for the Democrats.”