Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Recess Appointments - What should the Senate do?

The row about the use of Recess Appointments (see blog entry for April 6th) is hotting up. The Senate is back [It met on Tuesday April 10th from 10.00 to 20.02 - for the Congressional Daily Digest visit http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/dailydigest] - and angry Democrats are looking at an effective strategy to respond.

Roll Call reports that they may be considering a two pronged strategy

[1] Shortening Recesses further. Reid had cut the length of recesses, partly to stop recess appointments. That didn't work, as last week Bush ignored the tradition that no recess appointments are made during breaks of less than 10 days. The speculation is that a shortened August recess won't stop, but will make more difficult, attempts to push through such appointments in the summer.

[2] Blocking further nominations - making the point that ploys like last weeks are ultimately self defeating. The functioning of the system requires both the Legislature and the Executive to cooperate. If the President tries to ignore the wishes of Congress, then he can't expect that cooperation.

I recommend the article by Norman Ornstein in Roll Call (I have a great deal of respect for him, and his columns and books are always worth reading). The full article can be found at


He concludes -

"So what is a Congress to do? The only answer is to use its own powers to make clear to the president that there is a cost, and a serious one, to such behavior. Of course, the Senate can block other presidential nominees, but that kind of hostage-taking or revenge killing would mean further damaging the already fragile nomination process and discouraging good people from service.

The more tempting course is to use the power of the purse. Mr. Fox may find he can serve in Belgium, but there are lots of ways to make his tour of duty unpleasant, including cutting off funds for his residence. And there are ways to make White House operations more difficult without cutting essential services. I hate to see this kind of interbranch warfare. But it is time to put some limits on a presidential abuse of power that has gone way too far."