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Grassley Says Delaying New Confirmations an Option After Cordray

Senate Republicans should consider blocking future presidential nominations as a response to President Barack Obama’s disputed recess appointments last week, said Senator Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican.

Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said today he prefers first seeking some Senate Democrats to join in a public pushback to Obama’s four recess appointments Jan. 4, including the installation of Richard Cordray as the new director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Short of that, Grassley said, Republicans may have to go it alone with tough actions that could include holding up pending nominations from a Senate confirmation vote.

“We have got to stand our ground,” Grassley said in an interview. “You can’t let a president who takes an oath to uphold the Constitution go around the Constitution. That’s what the checks and balances are.”

Senate Republicans have criticized Obama’s decision to appoint Cordray as well as three members to the National Labor Relations Board while the Senate was on a break. So far the Republicans have said little about whether they might retaliate. Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, said his office doesn’t have “any announcements” about what effect Obama’s move will have on pending nominations and any other business before the Senate.

Nominations that might be affected include two picks for Federal Reserve Board governors as well as the two top posts at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

Campaign-Trail Fodder

Ramping up his re-election campaign, Obama is using the Cordray appointment to draw a distinction between Republicans and his fellow Democrats. Senate Republicans said they blocked Cordray’s nomination since last summer because they objected to the agency’s powers, not the nominee.

Cordray, 52, takes over a bureau created under the Dodd-Frank Act in response to complaints that regulators didn’t do enough to protect consumers before the 2008 credit crisis. Republicans have slowed many other confirmations since Obama took office.

Republican lawmakers question the legality of Obama’s appointments of Cordray and the NLRB members. While the Constitution gives the president power to make appointments when the Senate is in recess, leaders in both parties agreed in December to keep Congress in pro forma sessions every three days through the holidays. That practice has been used for about two decades to prevent recess appointments.

Grassley said Senate Republicans will determine their course of action after the Senate returns the week of Jan. 23.

It likely will be up to a business or trade group affected by a decision of the consumer financial agency to file a lawsuit challenging Cordray’s appointment, Grassley said. Unless a court upholds the Senate’s past approach to extended breaks, Obama could try this again, he said.

“Isn’t this going to permit the president to make recess appointments on Saturdays and Sundays 52 times a year if we don’t get this settled?” he said.

Editors: Jodi Schneider,

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