WASHINGTON— Testifying before the House Oversight Committee, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, vowed to block every upcoming presidential nominee because of what he called President Barack Obama’s of “trampling” on the Constitution when he made controversial recess appointments earlier this month.
He was “thumbing his nose at the U.S. Constitution,” said Lee.
Obama triggered controversy when he named Richard Cordray as the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and three members to the National Labors Relations Board without Senate confirmation.
“Our government is not a government of one,” Lee said. “These are real rights upon which the president has trampled. He’s taking what does not belong to him— it belongs to the American people.”
For positions that usually require Senate confirmation, the Constitution allows the president to bypass the Senate if it is in recess. Republicans argue the president’s appointments are unconstitutional because the Senate was technically in session, holding a series of pro-forma sessions at the time of the appointments. But the president said the Senate was, in effect, in recess because no official business was being conducted. The Justice Department agreed.
“It is for the Senate and it’s not for the president to decide when the Senate is in session,” said Lee. “The president has taken power that does not belong to him… something needs to be done.”
The Utah Republican said he would challenge every upcoming nominee until those picks were rescinded.
Since Cordray’s appointment, Republican lawmakers have been searching for a way to fight back. Some members have refused to acknowledge Cordray as a legitimate director, while others have boycotted various committee hearings.
Rep. Jeff Landry, R-La.,, introduced legislation last week to freeze the salaries of presidential appointees made during a Senate recess.
“It is important Congress takes steps now to end this gross executive overreach and prevent similar power gabs from happening again,” he said in an official statement.
Rep. James Lankford, R-Okla. agreed.
“It sets a precedent for future presidents, that they can determine a recess whenever they want,” said Lankford. “What is going to be next?”
However Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., said Senate Republicans “left the president with no choice.”
“These recess appointments were the only way to comply with Congress’ intent in establishing and maintaining fully functioning agencies.”
So far Obama has made 32 recess appointments. At the same point in their presidencies, George W. Bush had made 171 recess appointments and Bill Clinton had made 139.