“UNPRECEDENTED.” “A power grab.” “A flagrant contempt for the rules.” Such were the howls from many on the right after President Obama this week used recess appointments to install a new director at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and to reconstitute the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) with three new members.
These agencies are controversial to begin with, and any move to promote their mission would have been met with strong opposition. In this case, however, critics argue that the president did not have the authority to make such appointments. Their proof? Every three days or so, a lone senator enters the chamber and gavels in a seconds-long, pro forma session; a bipartisan agreement mandated that the sessions would proceed “with no business conducted.” With the Senate in session, critics argue, the president is prohibited from exercising his power to make recess appointments. Some also note that neither chamber can adjourn without the consent of the other. Lawmakers left for the holidays without such an agreement.