Thursday, April 05, 2007

Bush's Congressional end-around

Apparently Kerry won't get his scalp after all. From Fox news (pun intended):

President Bush named Republican fundraiser Sam Fox as U.S. ambassador to Belgium on Wednesday, using a maneuver that allowed him to bypass Congress where Democrats had derailed Fox's nomination.

Democrats had denounced Fox for his 2004 donation to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. The group's TV ads, which claimed that Sen. John Kerry exaggerated his military record in Vietnam, were viewed as a major factor in the Massachusetts Democrat losing the election.

Recognizing Fox did not have the votes to obtain Senate confirmation, Bush withdrew the nomination last month. On Wednesday, with Congress out of town for a spring break, the president used his power to make recess appointments to put Fox in the job without Senate confirmation.

This means Fox can remain ambassador until the end of the next session of Congress, effectively through the end of the Bush presidency.

Okay, my bad; I should have seen that one coming. I just didn't consider that Bush would so blatantly ignore the Congress he has to work with for the next two years. Stuff like this will just make it that much more difficult to get other nominees approved, or get cooperation on the rest of his agenda. If your viewpoint is that Congress wouldn't cooperate anyway, fine. But I'm just not sure that installing Fox as ambassador to Belgium was so important that it was worth the cost.

We can also expect to see this sort of maneuver a lot more frequently in the months ahead, as Bush's term grows shorter and shorter and Congressional Democrats find reasons to drag their feet on many of his nominees, particularly judicial ones, in hopes that a Democrat will win the White House in 2008 and be able to fill those positions.

Is this legal? Yes. Have other presidents done this? Yes. But it's worth noting that the original point of recess appointments was simply to allow the machinery of government to function when Congress was out of session. It was never intended to be a way for the president to simply ignore the confirmation procedure.

Bush is not the first offender, and probably not the worst (though he has used recess appointments at a higher rate than Clinton); but that doesn't mean it's okay. If you respect the respective roles assigned to each branch of Congress by the Constitution, then presidents should only use recess appointments for the originally intended purpose. The equation changes a bit if you have an obstructionist Congress that refuses to confirm most presidential nominees. But that's not the case here.

As noted, the price will be paid politically. Whatever Bush's agenda is for the next two years, I think we can kiss most of it goodbye. Not for this one act, but for the attitude displayed by myriad similar acts over the past six years. Congressional Democrats may be gunning for Bush after six years of being walked on; but Bush is helping them dig his grave.

Update: I failed to point out that Fox wasn't the only recess appointment Bush made. He also made two fox-in-the-henhouse appointments: Susan Dudley, an opponent of government regulation, as White House regulatory czar; and Andrew Biggs, a supporter of Social Security privatization, as deputy Social Security commissioner. The latter appointment was also a direct slap at Congress, since Biggs' appointment had been rejected by the Senate in February.

The link notes that this is apparently the first time a president has made recess appointments during such a short recess, but otherwise this particular power has been broadly interpreted by presidents since the dawn of the Republic.

Congress does have one minor response: They can refuse to pay the recess appointees. But if the appointees are willing to serve for free, there's not much else Congress can do except fume.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

It should already be very clear to you and others that in no way is Pres. Bush going to receive any kind of cooperation from this Majority-led Democrat Congress and Senate. They have made that clear from Day One. Their behavior was NOT going to change if he didn't do these recess appointments. So, it makes no difference. President Bush should do what his powers as President and Commander-In-Chief will allow him to do.

I recall that Clinton did a lot of recess appointments as well----about 9 a year, I heard somewhere. I find it interesting that then.....Democrats said it was done because the Republican Congress wasn't cooperating with him. Now, they say just the opposite and blame Bush. Go figure.


4/05/2007 11:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bush is not the first offender, and probably not the worst.....
Who is the worst offender ?

4/05/2007 1:19 PM  
Anonymous Carl Gordon said...

Listening to all this Nazi right wing blather gives me feelings of senselessness of purpose mixed with equal parts introjections therapy and hamburger Gestalt Helper, now with knuckles and femurs. And just like a voyage of innovation unto unexplored territory, listening to the blather of you right wing yokels reminds me of the first time I opened an owl pellet. What a world of discovery! I had stumbled across a Barn Owl roost in an abandoned nun’s dildo one spring afternoon while skipping along the banks of the river Dung. Below the chute where all the naughty bits did their disgusting and unsightly business away from the prying eyes or our lord, was a small pile of damp, furry boluses (soft masses of chewed food). I examined each one, picking them up and carefully placing them on an old sack that belonged to the kindly old flatulent Father Flannigan, for what use had he of such underused apparatus. The fact that they were tough enough to survive the long gestation within the nun’s perch left no impression of sin nor the eternal torment and suffering me and my loved ones were now damned to eternity for, as essentially my sinful transgression not only cooked my goose but all the assholes I lived with at the time. This was my finest discovery to date, and I treated the pellets with the care and respect they deserved, just like those Egyptian artifacts I had watched archeologists excavate on T.V. or the current GOP spin on their latest blunder or fuckup. But then I said fuck it and put on “Cranked up really high” by Slaughter and the Dogs and awaited Sister Ann Daniel with a handy 5 iron and an uncontrollable urge to tee off her fucking skull.

4/05/2007 2:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Worst offender: Ronald Reagan -- 243 recess appointments

4/05/2007 3:31 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

JP5: You are so partisan it's charming. :)

GK: I don't know; I'm simply giving Bush the benefit of the dobut. Clinton did a bunch of recess appointments, but Bush is outdoing him, ratewise. Commenter #4 says Reagan had the most recess appointments, but that's too rough a measure, because not all recess appointments violate the standard I set out in my post. You'd have to look at the reason for each such appointment.

4/05/2007 4:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So....I'm "partisan" because I explain why he had to name recess appointments? And I guess you think YOU are NOT PARTISAN for blaming it all on Bush?

Too funny.


4/05/2007 4:56 PM  
Anonymous The Rational Republican said...

Good post Sean. I would have no problem with Bush taking such action if he would just find candidates that were not controversial. There are qualified people who are also acceptable to Congress. He's lost the clout and support necessary to be confrontational.

4/05/2007 7:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is no one Bush could name that the Dems would confirm......unless, of course, they get to choose him or her.

The fact that a nominee contributed to an organization that was intent on beating John Kerry, should have nothing to do with it. Think about that for a moment, Dems: if that were to be the the rule....then next time a Democrat president wants to nominate someone who has ever made a contribution to would not be able to. Is that really what you want as the precedent?


4/05/2007 8:32 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

There is no one Bush could name that the Dems would confirm.

See, JP5, this is an unproven assertion. The session is too young to know how the Dems will treat Bush's appointees. The ones rejected thus far are mostly ones that were controversial before this session, and the Democratic takeover of Congress simply guaranteed they would not be confirmed.

Gates and Petraeus, for example, were confirmed without trouble.

Here is the current status of judicial nominees.

So far, the Democrats have confirmed 13 district judges and 2 circuit court judges.

4/06/2007 11:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What do you mean "too young to know how the Dems will treat Bush's appointees?" These are the same Dems who have been blocking and filibustering Bush's nominees all along. Nothing's changed.....except now it's even worse.


4/06/2007 5:59 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

JP5: If you had followed the link I provided in my comment, you would have seen that thus far Bush has had 273 judges confirmed. If the Dems are blocking and filibustering all of his nominees, they're doing a lousy job.

4/06/2007 8:01 PM  

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