Now that Congress has left for spring break, President Obama is making more than a dozen recess appointments to fill key administration posts at the Departments of the Treasury, Homeland Security and others, the White House announced Saturday.
Citing "months of Republican obstruction," Mr. Obama made 15 appointments in all, including Craig Becker, a controversial nominee to head the National Labor Relations Board. The Senate last month voted against proceeding to confirm Mr. Becker, a former union lawyer.
The White House said the nominees had been pending in the Senate for an average of 214 days. It noted that former President George W. Bush had made 15 recess appointments by this time in his presidency.
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"The United States Senate has the responsibility to approve or disapprove of my nominees. But if, in the interest of scoring political points, Republicans in the Senate refuse to exercise that responsibility, I must act in the interest of the American people and exercise my authority to fill these positions on an interim basis," Mr. Obama said.
Nominations are perennially controversial, with the president's party accusing the opposition of slow-walking administration picks for Cabinet posts and the federal bench. Republicans similarly accused Democrats of stalling Mr. Bush's nominees when they were in control of the Senate.
The surprise victory of Republican Sen. Scott Brown in Massachusetts, which gave the GOP 41 votes in the Senate, has made confirmation even more difficult for Democrats this year.
The Constitution gives presidents the power to appoint nominees who would otherwise require Senate confirmation while the chamber is in recess. The appointments expire at the end the next legislative session, which in this case means the end of 2011.
Mr. Becker, a former AFL-CIO and Service Employees International Union lawyer, has been the target of fierce opposition as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups have warned he would pursue union interests at the expense of employers, including a stalled piece of legislation that would make union organizing easier.
"With today's recess appointment, President Obama has completely undone his own argument concerning job creation and traded away any credibility his administration might have on the economy," the Workforce Fairness Institute said in a statement Saturday. "Let's be frank about what Beckers recess appointment really is; it's a payoff to union bosses at the expense of America's employers and employees. Our nation's job creators will not soon forget that the country's chief executive turned his back on them in favor of rewarding political patrons advocating job-killing policies."
In addition to the departments of Treasury, Homeland Security and Commerce, the appointments included several nominees to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the office of the U.S. Trade Representative and the Farm Credit Board.
On Friday night, Mr. Obama's second nominee to head the Transportation Security Administration withdrew his nomination amid controversy over his work as a defense contractor.