Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

All in a Day's Work

Senator Jim Webb presided over the Senate today for its entire session--twenty-two seconds. The Junior Democratic Senator from Virginia was alone in the chamber. He banged the gavel three times--once to open, twice to close--and then announced, "The Senate stands in recess until Nov. 23rd, '07 at 10 a.m." Senator Byron Dorgan will do the honors on Friday and Senator Jim Reed is scheduled to do the same three days later.

This was the first of several pro-forma sessions Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid threatened to prevent Bush from making any appointments while Congress goes home for Thanksgiving. The Constitution gives the President the authority to make appointments while Congress is in "recess" and Bush has used this power many times, notably when he circumvented the Senate to appoint John Bolton ambassador to the U.N. Any recess appointments Bush were to make now would last until January 2009.

Never before has the Senate invoked such a procedure to block recess appointments, and the NY Times observes that the Democrats are likely to do this until the end of the 110th Congress, effectively preventing all recess appointments until the very end of Bush's term, unless Bush agrees to also move on Democratic appointments.

Said Senator Webb, "I'd much rather be doing this than allow the President to skirt the confirmation process in the Senate. It's totally appropriate for me to get dressed up this morning, come in here, bang a gavel and preserve the constitutional process."

Doubtless the framers provided for recess appointments merely as a contingency plan--they never intended for the President to wait for a recess to make appointments!--but then they probably would not look kindly on a twenty-two second microsession either. So on the one hand, Senator Reid has merely instituted one abuse to balance another. But on the other hand, such artful re-balancing belongs to the finest of Constitutional traditions.


Anonymous said...

Okay another dumb question: are there any contentious or major appointments that need to be made at this time?

Spotted Handfish

PS Happy Thanksgiving, assuming that is an appropriate thing to say. I don't know: we've gone straight to Christmas decorations...

Dr. Strangelove said...

There are two contentious appointments. Bush's controversial choice for the next surgeon general is one. He also wants to appoint some old cronies as ambassadors, including the guy who made the "swift boat" commercials against Kerry. And there are always the federal judgeships...

Raised By Republicans said...

The thing about recess appointments is that the idea started when Senators would have to ride in horse drawn buggies for hundreds of miles to back to their home states and then ride back again to start the new session. There were months when no meetings were possible.

Now Senators can fly from D.C. to California in a matter of hours so the neccisity of a prolonged recess is really reduced.

Bush is clearly abusing the recess appointment rule to circumvent Senate approval. It's yet another case of the Bush administration ignoring the spirt of the constitution if not its text.

Consider what the founding fathers would think of a man like Bush. I think they'd compare him to Aaron Burr (spit when you say that name).