Senate Republicans Block Obama Recess Appointments

May 26, 2011 4:13 pm

Senate Republicans are using a parliamentary trick to block President Obama from making any recess appointments during the Senate’s Memorial Day break — including a long-awaited nomination of Elizabeth Warren to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The Senate will remain in pro-forma session because Republicans objected to the unanimous consent required to adjourn. The parliamentary maneuver prevented the Senate from officially going into recess for a week, denying Obama a chance for recess appointments even though Republicans openly acknowledge that they don’t expect any.

“Senate Republicans are doing this just in case,” said a House GOP aide.On Friday Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell tried to deny the pro-forma session-strategy was really about Warren or other potential Obama nominations. Instead, he said the move was to protest Democrats’ decision to go on a week-long break without voting on a Democratic budget first.

“I was confident there would not be any recess appointments,” McConnell said. “But all of us did feel that leaving without having voted on a budget was a mistake. And that was a letter that all 47 of us signed to Senator Reid. And that was the reason that Senator Sessions objected to having the adjournment vote.”

The House GOP aide knocked down a report that the House was considering its own effort to prevent the Senate from formally adjourning.

The idea surfaced among a small group of conservative rank-and-file House members, according to the House Republican staffer, but more senior members quickly threw cold water on the idea, reminding the rebelrousers about the timeworn axiom: what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

“Our interest is not served in blocking Senate adjournment,” the aide told TPM. “Now that we have this funky schedule where we don’t match up with the Senate, we may hold their fates in our hands this week but they may hold ours in their hands next week. It’s not in our mutual interest to hold up the other body.”

The Washington Examiner‘s Beltway Confidential blog issued a breaking news item late Thursday quoting a Senate GOP aide as saying the House was planning to gum up the works for the Senate’s Memorial Day adjournment.

Under the U.S Constitution, neither chamber can adjourn for more than three days unless both chambers agree to it, the Examiner reported.

When it comes to blocking recess appointments, Republicans argue, it’s a case of turnabout being fair play.

When Democrats regained the majority in Congress in 2007, they held pro forma Senate sessions every three days during recesses, some of which lasted only seconds, to prevent President Bush from making any appointments.

Republicans want to do everything they can to prevent Warren from ascending to the CFPB because of her strong advocacy for stricter consumer protections after the economic crisis. Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) hauled Warren before a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing Tuesday in order to grill her about her views. The two got into a heated exchange during the hearing after McHenry accused her of lying about an agreement she had with the committee to end her testimony at a predesignated time.

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