- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 4, 2011


Anti-business liberals aren’t going to sneak their way into powerful administration positions this summer. Recess appoinments are a traditional method used by the White House - under both parties - to fill government slots without Senate confirmation.

Rep. Jeff Landry will keep that from happening by using pro forma House sessions to prevent the Senate from going into recess.

“I came to Congress on a strict constructionist wave - that the Tea Party stands for - which is three co-equal branches of government,” Mr. Landry told The Washington Times. “We want to prevent the president from making appointments that the Senate clearly rejected or would not confirm.”

Republicans in both chambers fear, for example, that President Obama would bypass the opposition of 44 GOP senators and hand Richard Cordray a recess appointment as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). They are trying to use the nomination fight to leverage the administration into restructuring the new Big Brother agency to make it more accountable.

The GOP believes that the president has misused his power to ram through controversial nominees who failed to get Senate approval like Craig Becker on the National Labor Relations Board and Donald Berwick as administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

House Speaker John A. Boehner agreed with Mr. Landry’s proposal and tasked the Louisiana Republican with finding members willing to fill in during August. To keep the House in session, a member must gavel in the chamber once every three days and do the prayer, pledge and any pending business. The entire process takes about 15 minutes.

Mr. Landry has eight members signed up to come back to Washington and take turns presiding. “I’ll do it for as long as I’m in Congress or the president is in office,” Mr. Landry said in his heavy Cajun accent. “As long as the speaker concurs, and we can fill the slots, we’ll stay there.”

The legislative branch has taken shots at recess appointments before. In 1864, it enacted a law blocking unconfirmed appointees from drawing a salary from the taxpayer - essentially stopping the practice. In 1966, Rep. Edwin E. Willis, Louisiana Democrat, paved the way for an aggressive expansion of recess power by relaxing the statute. Mr. Landry now holds Willis’ congressional seat.

Mr. Landry initially was motivated by the CFPB appointments, but now he sees the issue more broadly as accomplishing the Founding Fathers’ goal of checks and balances.

“Regardless of party affiliation, there are executives who will push the boundaries of the Constitution to get what they want,” he explained. “And it’s our part to check that power.” If the president’s going to take extreme measures to bypass the legislative process, it’s only fair that Congress returns the favor.

Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.

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