Finally, Obama makes recess appointments

After months of obstruction by Senate Republicans, the White House announced on March 27:

“The United States Senate has the responsibility to approve or disapprove of my nominees. But if, in the interest of scoring political points, Republicans in the Senate refuse to exercise that responsibility, I must act in the interest of the American people and exercise my authority to fill these positions on an interim basis,” said President Barack Obama. “Most of the men and women whose appointments I am announcing today were approved by Senate committees months ago, yet still await a vote of the Senate. At a time of economic emergency, two top appointees to the Department of Treasury have been held up for nearly six months. I simply cannot allow partisan politics to stand in the way of the basic functioning of government.”

 

Following their appointment, these nominees will remain in the Senate for confirmation.

Obama Administration appointees have faced an unprecedented level of obstruction in the Senate.

* President Obama currently has a total of 217 nominees pending before the Senate. These nominees have been pending for an average of 101 days, including 34 nominees pending for more than 6 months.

* The 15 nominees President Obama intends to recess appoint have been pending for an average of 214 days or 7 months for a total of 3204 days or almost 9 years.

* President Bush had made 15 recess appointments by this point in his presidency, but he was not facing the same level of obstruction. At this time in 2002, President Bush had only 5 nominees pending on the floor. By contrast, President Obama has 77 nominees currently pending on the floor, 58 of whom have been waiting for over two weeks and 44 of those have been waiting more than a month.

I put the full list of recess appointees with their bios after the jump. In the good news column, Obama named Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board. Unfortunately, he also named pesticide and biotech lobbyist Islam A. Siddiqui as the U.S. Trade Representative's Chief Agricultural Negotiator. More than 100 organizations opposed Siddiqui's nomination "as a textbook case of the 'revolving door' between industry and the government agencies meant to keep watch."

Also bad news: Obama did not use his recess appointment power to name Dawn Johnsen as head of the Office of Legal Counsel. I thought she had already been confirmed, because in January it became clear that there were 60 senators supporting her nomination. However, the Senate Judiciary Committee has repeatedly postponed considering her confirmation, raising questions about whether the Obama administration really wants Johnsen to do this job.

 

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Obama Backs Away from Recess Appointments . . . For Now

The White House released a short statement from the President late on Thursday following action by the Senate to confirm — by unanimous consent — twenty-seven executive nominees before leaving for the President's Day recess.

Today, the United States Senate confirmed 27 of my high-level nominees, many of whom had been awaiting a vote for months.

At the beginning of the week, a staggering 63 nominees had been stalled in the Senate because one or more senators placed a hold on their nomination. In most cases, these holds have had nothing to do with the nominee’s qualifications or even political views, and these nominees have already received broad, bipartisan support in the committee process.

Instead, many holds were motivated by a desire to leverage projects for a Senator’s state or simply to frustrate progress. It is precisely these kinds of tactics that enrage the American people.

And so on Tuesday, I told Senator McConnell that if Republican senators did not release these holds, I would exercise my authority to fill critically-needed positions in the federal government temporarily through the use of recess appointments. This is a rare but not unprecedented step that many other presidents have taken. Since that meeting, I am gratified that Republican senators have responded by releasing many of these holds and allowing 29 nominees to receive a vote in the Senate.

While this is a good first step, there 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.

The 27 confirmed today form part of the over 60 executive nominations that had been placed on hold by one of more Senators. Earlier this week, Republicans blocked the confirmation of Craig Becker, a labor lawyer, to a seat on the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which has been operating with only two of its five members for a few years.

The White House statement seems to signal that the President will not use a recess appointment to appoint Craig Becker to the NLRB. The President did reserve his right to use his recess appointment authority in the future if the Senate does act on his nominees.

The list of the confirmed nominees is below the fold.

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