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The Collective
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Via the NYT we see that the President is using the recess appointment power to name an ambassador, and two other executive branch members (Bush Defies Democrats With 3 Appointments)

President Bush used Congress’s Easter break today to defy Democratic lawmakers and appoint three officials who have already drawn heavy criticism on Capitol Hill.

The president used recess appointments to install Sam Fox, a major Republican donor from Missouri, to be ambassador to Belgium; Andrew G. Biggs of New York to be deputy commissioner of Social Security, and Susan E. Dudley of Virginia to be administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at the office of Management and Budget.

Naming the three while Congress is in recess allows Mr. Bush to avoid the Senate confirmation process. The recess appointments allow the three to remain in their posts until the end of 2008, virtually the end of Mr. Bush’s second term.

Mr. Bush’s use of the recess appointment device, which is authorized in the Constitution, was an unmistakable gesture of defiance against the newly empowered Democrats.

The usage of this type of recess appointment is nothing new, and Bush has used it several times-with John Bolton being his most famous case. Obviously the original reason for the recess appointment power was because Congress was, back in the late 1700s, expected to be gone from the capital and impossible to communicate with for large stretches of time. As such, it made sense to give the president the power to make interim appointments without congressional authorization. In the modern era, such a power is hardly necessary, although the practice has continued (see here for some background).

There is something untoward, I would argue, in making appointments like this when Congress is only going on a temporary break. Further, this is clearly the President avoiding a fight, and the list of three includes one candidate (Biggs-the appointee for the Social Security position) who had been rejected already by the Senate Finance Committee, as is its right.

Setting aside which party controls what, or whether the Senate has sufficiently good reasons to reject these candidates, isn’t there something wrong with an ongoing process of simply side-stepping checks and balance and denying the Senate it advise and consent role? (Or perhaps I am being a Congressional supremacist again for wanting that quaint ol’ Constitution to be used?).

Update: More on this subject here.

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Filed under: US Politics | |


  1. […] In my prior post I addressed the latest usage of the recess appointment powers by the president and I described it as “disdain” for checks and balances. It would be fair to point out (as I did in the post) that there is technically nothing wrong with the action, as it is an established practice. Further, one expects political actors to evaluate the existing rules and exploit them to their advantage when they find elements in those rules that can be used to achieve their political goals. […]

    Pingback by PoliBlog ™: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » The Same Subject Continued (Bush and Checks and Balances) — Thursday, April 5, 2007 @ 7:03 am

  2. […] Bush Yet Again Shows Disdain for Checks and Balances […]

    Pingback by PoliBlog ™: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » A Question on Checks and Balances, Partisanship and Executive Power — Thursday, April 5, 2007 @ 11:04 am

  3. But when Bush has tried to appoint people and had enough votes to pass an individual minority members of the Senate blocked their appointment, Bolton to use your example had a majority of votes in the Senate but could not get past the comittee because of minority party was blocking most if not all appointments. This was not in the constitution, while the minority party has some say, it does not have the authority to rule from the minority position.

    Comment by Arthur — Thursday, April 5, 2007 @ 12:06 pm

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