I’m not a big fan of the recess appointment per se. It was designed at a time when Senators traveled back and forth between their states and Washington in horse-drawn carriages, and was meant to be used in case they could not return in a timely manner and an appointment needed to be filled. Needless to say, we don’t have that problem now. And in 2007, Harry Reid started using pro forma sessions, lasting a matter of seconds, to stop George W. Bush from making recess appointments when the chamber was on a break. Someone local (Jim Webb of Virginia for example) would come in, gavel the Senate to order, and gavel out. Recess appointments dropped dramatically.
I am a big fan of using whatever you have at your disposal to advance progress, so this is a disappointment:
The Senate will stay in pro forma session next week after failing to agree Thursday to adjourn for its scheduled weeklong Memorial Day recess.
Senate Budget ranking member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) threatened this week to block any unanimous consent request to adjourn because Senate Democrats had not offered a budget resolution for a floor vote. Other Republican Senators were also fighting adjournment to prevent President Barack Obama from making recess appointments.
The budget thing is a red herring. This was to block recess appointments.
At first, the theory was that the Senate would just get the House to block adjournment resolutions. The Constitution holds that both chambers must agree to an adjournment. However, the schedule is staggered this year, with the House adjourning at different times as the Senate. If the House blocked the Senate from adjournment, the Senate could do the same, turning the off time into a big hassle, where the House must make arrangements for a pro forma session. House aides told Brian Beutler that they would probably not step in to block an adjournment from the Senate.
So this is entirely on the Senate to fail to come up with an adjournment motion. Jeff Sessions planned to block unanimous consent. And while seeking cloture would have had them sitting around a couple days, Democrats may have figured they couldn’t get 7 Republicans to agree to adjourn. Or maybe Harry Reid just wanted to go home. So Reid never even made the motion.
The upshot of this is that the Obama Administration will have no opportunity in the next week to make recess appointments, including one for Elizabeth Warren to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The larger point is that Republicans have threatened to filibuster ANYONE for that job unless they get to gut the agency. Without the recess appointment at the President’s disposal, theoretically there will be no CFPB Director. And come July 21, without a director CFPB loses the ability to regulate nonbank financial institutions.
I’m not sure a recess appointment was coming this week anyway. The Administration has used them sparingly. But for Senate Dems to get nothing in exchange for doing pro forma sessions seems crazy to me.