Forcing Bush's Hand on Recess Appointments

As I forecasted a few days ago, posting from me has been light -- well, nonexistent -- since late last week given my relocation from Portland to Berkeley over the weekend. Now that I at least have my furniture in place, though not all my dishes and tchatchkes, I have a chance to sit down and write for a bit. Thanks for bearing with me.

Via the now nearly ubiquitous Steve Benen, writing today over at The Carpetbagger Report, comes a report from Roll Call's Erin P. Billings that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has effectively forced President Bush's hand over recess appointments.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has quietly shelved plans to hold the Senate in pro forma session this month after the White House agreed to refrain from making any executive appointments during the Senators' August break.

Sources in both parties said the two parties reached an understanding whereby Reid agreed to move a series of outstanding White House nominations -- 42 in total -- before the Senate left town on Aug. 3. The Bush administration, meanwhile, agreed to refrain from making any surprise recess appointments over the break.

"Our leadership and their people sat down and decided it's in nobody's best interest to have this fight play out over August," a senior Democratic Senate aide said. "Ultimately, no one wins."

Benen reads this news with a skeptical eye, noting that the Democrats are giving in on some of their positions (for instance Reid pledging to hold a vote on the nomination of former GOP Congressman Jim Nussle to serve as OMB director) for only a pledge from the White House to refrain from making recess appointments, which would effectively allow President Bush to place subordinates without any congressional oversight. Indeed, Democrats on Capitol Hill who have placed too much faith in the President in the past have found themselves burned subsequently, so the concern is very palpable.

But at the same time, the Democrats are not giving up their leverage. Though they have pledged to hold a vote on the Nussle nomination once Congress comes back into session at the beginning of September, presumably that pledge would not have to be fulfilled were the President to reneg on his end of the agreement by making a recess appointment. What's more, the Democrats are getting what they want -- no recess appointments -- without actually having to follow through on their threat to keep the Senate in session sporadically throughout the August recess.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think that this is the best deal in the world for the Democrats. "A senior Democratic Senate aide" conceded as much in the article. But it does seem to me that this isn't a terrible deal for the Democrats either but rather an example of the party leadership forcing the President's hand without actually having to follow through on their threats of creatively using Congressional rules to achieve their ends.

Tags: 110th congress, George W. Bush, Harry Reid, Recess Appointments (all tags)



Re: Forcing Bush's Hand on Recess Appointments

Well how could it have been better?

I see absolutely nothing wrong with this deal. I know a lot of people want to have a fight with Bush 24/7 no matter what and would have wanted Reid to keep blocking the 42 nominees AND hold the pro forma session during the summer.

That was impractical and would score zero political points--in this deal if Bush breaks his promise and goes ahead with recess appointments, he can kiss goodbye his 42 nominees and any other nominee he puts up front from then on. If he keeps his pledge, well then we are spared hideous recess appointments, and in the time left, I would highly doubt that Reid will push through the entire roster of nominees if some of them are truly horrid.

This was a good deal on which we actually have some leverage.

by need some wood 2007-08-13 09:32AM | 0 recs
Re: Forcing Bush's Hand on Recess Appointments

What if he gives recess appointments to all 42?

by antiHyde 2007-08-13 01:33PM | 0 recs
I think this is a win for Dems

If they ever get Bush to treat them as a co-equal branch, it is a win.

by dataguy 2007-08-13 10:37AM | 0 recs
Bush nominees: voted ON, or voted IN?

Explain something to me about those 42 nominees that Reid has "pledged" to bring to the floor.  How many of them have the votes to win confirmation?

Presumably, keeping nominees "bottled up in committee" is what you do when you know they will be confirmed in a "straight up-or-down vote".  So, does Reid's deal essentially give Dubya his gang of 42?  Some of those being nominees to lifetime positions (like Judge Southwick, who the baffling Diane Feinstein voted for, in committee) has Reid made a deal that inflicts a lasting burden on ourselves and our posterity?

Would it have been so hard for Cardin, Webb, or even someone with a much longer commute like Whitehouse, drop in every few days to keep the Senate formally in session?

-- TP

by Rethymniotis 2007-08-13 10:56AM | 0 recs
Re: Bush nominees: voted ON, or voted IN?

"bring to the floor" means "have a full senate vote"

I don't think it's automatic confirmation.

by dataguy 2007-08-13 12:12PM | 0 recs
Re: Forcing Bush's Hand on Recess Appointments
The optimist in me wants to believe that Reid is doing this to keep Bush from appointing Gonzales' replacement during the break, perhaps in anticipation of impeachment proceedings this fall for the AG.
by anevarez 2007-08-13 11:11AM | 0 recs
Re: Forcing Bush's Hand on Recess Appointments


It really is only tradition that keeps the president from doing a recess nomination for breaks shorter than 10 days.  In the 4th branch administration, I would be shocked if they didn't consider the Senate lunch break a long enough "recess" to constitutionally make recess appointments.

So I'd call this a win for Reid, for the moment, assuming that not too many odious people actually get confirmed to the jobs.  

I think it was in Bush's interest to avoid any high profile recess appointments.  They're really unpopular, and the higher the job, the more flack a president gets for doing it.  Besides, his nominees will have more legitimacy for their wingnut views if they are senate confirmed.  We never stop hearing about how Petraeus was confirmed unanimously and we will again when he delivers his unsurprising "magnificent progress" report in September.

by scientician 2007-08-13 12:05PM | 0 recs
Re: Forcing Bush's Hand on Recess Appointments

I don't think this is a win for Reid at all except that he gets an uninterrupted vacation. Bush gets all he wants by getting a vote on all his nominations. If he loses votes on his nominations, he can always make recess appointments at a later time.

by steve2 2007-08-13 01:08PM | 0 recs
Re: Forcing Bush's Hand on Recess Appointments

Basically almost all of these nominees are going to get confirmed. Democrats LOSE again! Its amazing how stupid Dems are. First the FISA bill, and now this crap. How many times do we have to get scammed before democratic leaders that Bush can't be trusted with anything. Fuck that asshole and stop cooperating with him until November 2008.

by bsavage 2007-08-13 02:17PM | 0 recs


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