Monday, April 02, 2007

What's so great about recess?

My modest proposal
From Section 2 of Article II of the Constitution of the United States of America: The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.
What do these dates look like to you—?

April 2 through April 9. May 28 through June 1. July 2 through July 6. August 6 through September 3.

If you said that they look like the tentatively scheduled 2007 legislative recess periods for the U.S. Senate, you would be correct. To me, however, they also look like opportunities for serious mischief.

From the Los Angeles Times:
The White House has renominated three people for top jobs affecting the environment who were previously blocked in Congress because of their pro-industry views.

According to industry lobbyists and Republican aides in Congress, Bush intends to skirt the Senate approval process if necessary by making recess appointments to put the three nominees in the posts.
Last year, despite Republican control of both houses of Congress, Sen. Barbara Boxer and other Democrats were able to block the Bush administration's attempt to give industry representatives control of the Environmental Protection Agency's regulatory process. Now that she is chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, Boxer is in even better position to head off the nominees whose names have been resubmitted for Senate confirmation. She is concerned, however, that the president can't seem to take a hint about the inappropriateness of his choices. Boxer told the Los Angeles Times, “I view it as an enormous threat to public health that the president refuses to back off.”

Given the rumors about possible recess appointments during the summer, Boxer faces the possibility of a presidential end-run around the Senate. Bush did it last year when he placed John Bolton in the position of U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. He could do it again to pack his industry cronies into the EPA. If the scheduled April hearings don't go well, and the nominees are again refused confirmation, Bush could just wait till the Senate begins its summer recess and then put them in office anyway.

So I suggest the Senate not adjourn.

Really. The U.S. Constitution stipulates that the Congress shall meet at least once a year. It does not specify the number or duration of the annual sessions. Majority Leader Harry Reid could, with the assistance of his Democratic colleagues, keep the Senate in session continuously.

Mind you, the senators would not be trapped at their desks while Senator Jefferson Smith drones on in a hoarse filibuster. I'm sure that a quorum call would fail during certain periods of time when senators might slip away to work their home states (perhaps even for a period as long as August 6 through September 3), but a sparse legislative calendar in D.C. does not prevent a house from being “in session” so long as it has not been adjourned for a recess. A senator could stroll in every so often to file an amendment or some bit of busy work (a senator from, say, Maryland or Virginia or Delaware, right there near Washington). The Congressional Record would therefore have something to print. Things would be slow. But the Senate would be in session and the Constitution of the United States provides that the president can make recess appointments only during a recess.

And there wouldn't be one.

I can already hear the squawks from the president's battalions of flying monkeys. Rush might actually go apoplectic on live radio. That's merely a side benefit. No more industry shills or wacky neocons would get appointed to anything.

No recess—because Bush doesn't deserve a play period. Keep him after school!

Update: I am immensely pleased by the following item, dated May 20, 2007, from Paul Bedard of Washington Whispers:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has a little trick up his sleeve that could spell an end to President Bush's devilish recess appointments of controversial figures like former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton. We hear that over the long August vacation, when those types of summer hires are made, Reid will call the Senate into session just long enough to force the prez to send his nominees who need confirmation to the chamber. The talk is he will hold a quickie “pro forma” session every 10 days, tapping a local senator to run the hall. Senate workers and Republicans are miffed, but Reid is proving that he's the new sheriff in town.
Give 'em hell, Harry!


Surfje said...

A very, very good idea who's time has come.

The Ridger, FCD said...

Good idea.

I myself wonder about the legality of the whole appointment. I mean, are those really "Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate"? That sounds to me like it only applies to vacancies that actually happen - that is, the guy dies or resigns or whatever - while the Senate is on recess. Since after all, in the 18th century it could take a while to collect the Senate back up.

Hmmm. Maybe the time has come to amend that article and require the Senate to come off recess for emergency appointments.