Thursday, April 05, 2007

Recess appointment abuse

President Bush made some more “recess appointments” the other day, bypassing the Senate to install several people to positions that they would have otherwise been able to fill.
This is an abuse of the executive power granted in the Constitution. Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution says: “The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.”
But the positions that Bush is filling did not become vacant during the Senate recess. The authors of our Constitution added that provision because back in 1780s the U.S. Congress did not tend to meet for long periods of time. There would be long delays between sessions of Congress, thus government vacancies might go unfilled for lengthy periods during which time the Congress was not around to give its advice and consent. So the recess appointment was created to allow the President to fill those vacancies temporarily.
But times have changed and today the Congress is in session pretty much year around. Therefore, one should assume that the recess appointment provision should rarely be used. But quite to the contrary, it seems to be used with ever increasing frequency as Presidents have struggled with opposition parties controlling the other branches of government.
It is a bipartisan issue with both Republican and Democratic presidents taking advantage of this loophole to bypass their political adversaries in the appointment process. Although presidents all the way back to Washington have used recess appointments, it seems to have really taken off during the Reagan years when Uncle Ronnie bypassed the Democratic Congress repeatedly by making 243 recess appointments. Bill Clinton made 140 such appointments during his two terms.
But Bush Jr. may be the worst of all. Even with a Republican Congress during the first six years of his presidency, Bush has made 167 recess appointments so far.
Lately, he has been very blatant in making in-your-face recess appointments of officials who were already reviewed and rejected by the Senate. That is clearly contrary to the spirit, if not the letter of the law. I truly hope that someone will challenge him on this and get it before the Supreme Court because it is an abuse of power that should not be tolerated from Republican or Democratic presidents.

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