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Tag Archives: Recess appointments

Senate Republicans jump into recess appointment challenge

Republican lawmakers are officially jumping into the legal fight over President Barack Obama’s recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. And leading the GOP senators’ fight is a man who was blocked from a judicial appointment by Senate Democrats years ago.

Senate Republicans said yesterday they plan to file an amicus brief in the case challenging Obama’s authority to make the controversial appointments, according to the Washington Post. The White House has defended the validity of the recess appointments, and said they were necessary to keep the agencies operating as GOP lawmakers stalled nominees’ confirmation votes.

The Republican lawmakers brief will be authored by Miguel Estrada, a partner in the Washington office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher whose own judicial nomination to the D.C. Circuit was filibustered by Senate Democrats in 2001. (The news came, interestingly enough, the same day Estrada argued a case before the U.S. Supreme Court.)

“We think it’s the appropriate case,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., according to the Post. “And I thought that Miguel’s own experience with the confirmation process, that it might make particularly good sense for him to represent us in this particular undertaking.”

Grassley: Author of DOJ recess appointment opinion may lose her job

Sen. Chuck Grassley, angered by an opinion issued by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel finding President Barack Obama’s recent recess appointments legal, took aim at the opinion’s author, suggesting that she won’t be confirmed by the Senate again.

The opinion, authored by Assistant Attorney General Virginia A. Seitz earlier this month, found that Congress was in recess when Obama made four recess appointments despite Congressional Republicans’ efforts to gavel in pro forma sessions over the holiday break to prevent such appointments.

“I gave the President and Ms. Seitz the benefit of the doubt in voting to confirm her nomination,” Grassley said in a Senate floor speech Monday, according to Politico. “However, after reading this misguided and dangerous legal opinion, I’m sorry the Senate confirmed her. It’s likely to be the last confirmation she ever experiences.”

Those comments rankled some OLC attorneys from previous administrations, who said such blackball threats are dangerous.

“OLC lawyers should be free to render their honest opinion and not be threatened with adverse career consequences by either the White House or Congress,” Richard Painter, a White House ethics lawyer during the Bush administration, told Politico.

“The Senator’s name-calling is misplaced,” said Jack Goldsmith, who helmed the OLC during President George W. Bush’s administration.

President Bill Clinton’s chief OLC attorney Walter Dellinger said he was astonished by Grassley’s comments. “I can’t believe that Senator Grassley has actually read Seitz’s thoughtful and carefully reasoned opinion.  And he may not be aware that attorney’s in the administration of President George W. Bush reached the same conclusion that she reached,” Dellinger told Politico.

GOP lawmakers fired up (and ready to sue) over recess appointments

It did not take long for Congressional Republicans to seize on the controversial recess appointments President Barack Obama made last week.

On Friday GOP members of the Senate judiciary Committee, led by Sen. Chuck Grassley, sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder pressing him to disclose just what role the Department of Justice played in advising the president on the recess appointments.

As has been well reported, Obama appointed Richard Cordray as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and three members – Sharon Block, Richard Griffin and Terence F. Flynn – to the NLRB. The Senate had previously filibustered Cordray’s nomination and stalled the NLRB nominees, allowing the Board to fall below its statutory quorum the day before Obama made the recess appointments.

Obama made the move despite efforts by lawmakers to prevent Congress from recessing by repeatedly gaveling in pro forma sessions over the holiday break.

The lawmakers’ letter stated that the appointments went against opinions issued by past attorneys general, the U.S. Supreme Court and other authorities that “clearly indicate the view that a congressional recess must be longer than three days – and perhaps at least as long as ten — in order for a recess appointment to be constitutional.  These various authorities have reached this conclusion for over 90 years and have become the stated position of the Executive Branch, including multiple representations before the Supreme Court, regarding the required length of time for a recess in order for the President to make a recess appointment.”

Meanwhile, last week Rep. Bill Johnson threatened a lawsuit over the matter.

“Dodd-Frank made it very clear that to set it up it must have Senate approval,” Johnson told Fox Business’ Neil Cavuto (see it here via The Hill). “And the president cannot just arbitrarily change the rules or decide on his own the Senate’s definition of when it’s in session and when it’s not in session.”