WASHINGTON— A freshman lawmaker, angered by President Barack Obama’s recess appointment of Richard Cordray as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is drafting a bill to strip funding for salaries of presidential appointments made during a Senate recess.
Obama had nominated Cordray as director of the new consumer agency in July and appointed him on Wednesday after Senate Republicans had blocked the confirmation. The president used a provision in the Constitution that allows a president to make temporary appointments without Senate confirmation if the Senate has recessed. But some Republicans say the Senate wasn’t really in recess.
Rep. Jeff Landry, R-La., hopes to craft his proposal into a bill that could be debated when the House comes back from its own recess in late January.
“This only confirmed that this president has no respect for the Constitution and for the process [of government],” he said. “He simply will do whatever he wakes up in the morning and feels that he wants to do.”
Landry attempted to pass similar legislation in July as an amendment to the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. While the amendment passed with the unanimous support of House Republicans, the main bill itself was stalled in the Senate. Landry said that in addition to drafting his bill, he is looking into other ways to curtail this practice, which he sees as a distortion of the intent of the framers of the Constitution.
“Let’s look at the intent of the framers in drafting the recess appointment provisions in a time where Congress barely made it to Washington and it took months to get Congress assembled,” Landry said. “It was a method used in order to allow the government to function [so that] the president could make the appointment until the Senate could come back and confirm or deny the president’s appointee.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., decried the appointment through a statement on his website, citing a “longstanding precedent that has limited the president to recess appointments only when the Senate is in a recess of 10 days or longer.” Republican leadership in both the House and the Senate stated that the Senate remained active by holding pro forma sessions when they would otherwise be on recess. These sessions, occurring about every three or four days starting on Dec. 20, typically last no longer than a few minutes and are held simply to thwart recess appointments.
But because the Senate declared that no official business would be taking place during the pro forma sessions, Obama’s legal staff believed recess appointments could be justified, said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.
“The president’s counsel has determined that the Senate has been in recess for weeks and will be in recess for weeks,” Carney told reporters on Wednesday. “The Constitution guarantees the president the right, provides the president the right to make appointments during Senate recesses, and the president will use that authority to make this appointment.”
Much of this debate centers on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, created by the controversial Dodd-Frank Act passed in the wake of the financial collapse of 2008. Republicans lawmakers have fought against the creation of the bureau by filibustering to prevent a vote on Cordray’s appointment, thereby leaving the CFPB without a director and unable to function properly.