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January 24, 2012

Phyllis Schlafly

Barack Obama's latest unconstitutional action is his attempt to make four so-called recess appointments to high-level, well-paying jobs in the federal bureaucracy when the Senate was not in recess. He appointed three people to the National Labor Relations Board, plus Richard Cordray to head the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, even though the Senate had declined to confirm his nomination.

Article II gives the president power "by and with the advice and consent of the Senate" to appoint public officials and judges, and also "to fill up all vacancies that may happen during the recess of the Senate." That provision was written to cover the long recesses that were common during the horse-and-buggy days and was certainly not written to enable the president to defy the Senate and appoint persons who the Senate would not confirm.

Obama's action is clearly an attempt to circumvent the U.S. Constitution because the Senate was not in recess when he made these appointments. According to the Constitution, the Senate could not have been in recess when the appointments were made because Article I of the Constitution states that neither House can "adjourn for more than three days without the consent" of the other House, and the House did not consent to a Senate recess.

It seems reasonable that the Senate should have the authority to say whether or not it is in recess. Apparently, [Alleged] President Obama wants to make that a presidential decision.

Obama claims he can call it a recess because the Senate is merely conducting pro forma sessions (i.e., having brief meetings and not doing anything important). In fact, the Senate did pass a bill on Dec. 23 during one of those brief sessions, and the President signed it into law, so it must have been important business.

Even if someone accepts Obama's farfetched argument, that doesn't put him in compliance with the constitutional requirement that the Senate cannot be in recess unless the House has agreed. And the House absolutely did not agree to a recess.

We have a law on the books that requires the attorney general to give the president legal advice on request. Funny thing, Obama won't say whether or not he asked the Justice Department for advice about the constitutional issue before making controversial recess appointments.

The head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, Virginia Seitz, issued a statement, dated two days after the appointments were made, that presumes to OK the recess appointments. However, it did not refute the case against the legality of the appointments, and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, says this memo is "unconvincing."

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No president has resorted to recess appointments when Congress is in session. Expect serious legal challenges to new financial regulations.

The Wall Street Journal

David B. Rivkin, Jr. and Lee A. Casey

*excerpt*

Mr. Obama is claiming an open-ended authority to determine that the Senate is in recess, despite that body's own judgment and the factual realities. That is an astonishing and, so far as we can tell, unprecedented power grab.

It is not up to the president to decide whether the Senate is organized properly or working hard enough. However much the supposedly power-hungry President George W. Bush may have resented the Senate's practice of staying "in session" to defeat his recess-appointment power, he nevertheless respected the Senate's judgment on the point.

The president has done his new appointees and the public no favors. Both the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau are regulatory agencies with profound real-world impact. Those individuals and businesses subject to regulations and rulings adopted during the tenure of Mr. Obama's recess appointees can challenge the legality of those measures in the courts, and they will very likely succeed.

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