Forcing Bush's Hand on Recess Appointments
by Jonathan Singer, Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 08:36:52 AM EDT
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.