President Obama, making a muscular show of his executive authority just one day after Congress left for spring recess, said Saturday that he would bypass the Senate and install 15 appointees, including a union lawyer whose nomination to the National Labor Relations Board was blocked last month with the help of two Democrats.
Coming on the heels of Mr. Obama’s big victory on health care legislation, Saturday’s move suggests a newly emboldened president who is unafraid to provoke a confrontation with the minority party.
This is simply an area where presidents will — and should — become more aggressive. If the Senate is going to allow its idiotic rules to prevent the president from appointing people to the executive branch — including mostly qualified people with majority support — the use of recess appointments will become more and more common, and rightly so.
Speaking of which, this excerpt from Hatch’s letter boasting of minority opposition to Craig Becker — God forbid a duly elected administration be permitted to appoint people of similar beliefs to important administrative posts so that the bodies can actually function! — is instructive:
In the letter to the President, the Republican Senators wrote, “We urge you not to bypass the bipartisan Senate vote by giving Mr. Becker a recess appointment to the NLRB. Taking this action would install a rejected nominee for an appointed term to the NLRB, setting an unfortunate precedent for all future nominations and future administrations.”
On February 9, the Senate, on bipartisan basis, rejected Becker’s nomination by a vote of 52 to 43. Becker never sufficiently answered questions posed to him by Republican members of the Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, which both Hatch and McCain are members.
Let’s leave aside the strictly nominal definition of “bipartisan” (i.e. “Ben Nelson and Blanche Lincoln”). Those familiar with the rules governing pretty much every legislature in the world but the World’s Worst Deliberative Body might be forgiven for inferring from Hatch’s phrasing that there was a majority against Becker’s nomination. But, of course, the majority was in favor of Becker; what Hatch wont come out and tell you is that he successfully filibustered a candidate with majority support to keep the NLRB from functioning properly. Good for Obama for knowing to do with Hatch’s letter.