Republicans used the threat of a procedural blockade to make sure President Barack Obama wouldn’t be able to make recess appointments while the U.S. Senate is on a break next week, including naming Elizabeth Warren to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Instead of allowing all senators and their staffs to leave Washington, Majority Leader Harry Reid scheduled “pro forma” sessions, in which the chamber officially opens for the day, then gavels to a close right away. That can be handled by two lawmakers and aides.
Any time the Senate breaks for four days or more, the president has the power to officially appoint a nominee for a limited period without having to wait for a confirmation vote. Republicans said they were worried that Obama might grant recess appointments to Craig Becker, who the president has nominated to join the National Labor Relations Board, and Warren, who Obama picked to set up the bureau created by last year’s financial regulation law.
Warren hasn’t been officially nominated by Obama to head the bureau, and many Republicans have made clear they would oppose her. The agency has an official start date of July 21.
Reid, a Nevada Democrat, kept the Senate in pro forma sessions during the final months of Republican President George W. Bush’s administration to block him from appointing nominees that Democrats had refused to confirm.
If Reid hadn’t decided to quietly schedule pro forma sessions, another procedure could have publicly forced him to do so. The House is required to agree to Senate recesses, and concurs as a matter of routine.
Twenty Republican senators had written to House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, asking him to deny that routine approval for the scheduled week-long recess.
“I’m pleased we put this off for at least another week, said Senator David Vitter, a Louisiana Republican who organized the letter to Boehner with Senator Jim DeMint, a South Carolina Republican.