Recess appointments – the scoop

30 Dec

The White House announced a list of six recess appointments.

These include James Cole, a former independent monitor at AIG, as deputy attorney general, and Robert Stephen Ford for the controversial position of ambassador to Syria.

Predictably, some in Congress are howling at the end run.

Let’s take a look at Recess Appointments.
Political Science 101 is in session.

A recess appointment is the appointment by the President of a senior federal official while the Senate is in recess.

The U.S. Constitution requires that the most senior federal officers be confirmed by the Senate before assuming office, but while the U.S. Senate is in recess the President can act alone by making a recess appointment.

To remain in effect a recess appointment must be approved by the Senate by the end of the next session of Congress, or the position becomes vacant again. This means that a recess appointment must be approved by the Senate roughly by the end of the next calendar year.

The original idea was to make sure a position was filled when the Senate was adjourned for lengthy periods. Now it’s usually because Senate opposition appeared strong to a person and the hope is the appointee might prove himself or herself in office and built enough support to formally get the job.

That doesn’t work much anymore. As partisanship on Capitol Hill has grown over the years, recess appointments have tended to solidify opposition to the appointee.

One example: In August 2005, George Bush made a recess appointment of John Bolton, to serve as U.S. representative to the United Nations.

Bolton had also been the subject of a Senate filibuster concerning documents that the White House refused to release. Some Democrats said they may contain proof of Bolton’s abusive treatment and coercion of staff members or of his improper use of National Security Agency communications intercepts regarding U.S. citizens.

When his hearings finally rolled around he failed to win Senate confirmation, so he resigned his office in December 2006.

Anyone that accepts a recess appointment is in for a very tough time and one has to question their sanity.

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