At the beginning of January, President Obama defied the Senate by unilaterally appointing Richard Cordray as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, as well as three new Board Members of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). While Presidents may “recess appoint” officials when Congress is out of session, Senate Republicans noted that the Senate was not technically in recess and cried foul.
Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, was particularly incensed by the President’s “outrageous actions” that he believed demonstrated a “monarchy mentality.” In a speech on the Senate Floor on Monday, Senator Grassley remarked:
[W]e must consider how we will respond to the President and restore a Constitutional balance…. President Obama has upset the nominations process…. These appointments were blatantly unconstitutional. They were not made with the advice and consent of the Senate.
President Obama, however, believes Congress’ system is broken. In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, the President declared:
Some of what’s broken has to do with the way Congress does its business these days. A simple majority is no longer enough to get anything -– even routine business –- passed through the Senate. Neither party has been blameless in these tactics. Now both parties should put an end to it. For starters, I ask the Senate to pass a simple rule that all judicial and public service nominations receive a simple up or down vote within 90 days.
This stand-off may well intensify as Senators consider their options.
By Aaron Mercer, Vice President Government Relations