- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 5, 2012

The White House says it doesn’t fear potential lawsuits challenging President Obama’s controversial appointments while the Senate is on break, as Republican lawmakers and presidential hopefuls blasted the move as unconstitutional.

“We feel very confident about the legal foundation upon which the president made this decision,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said Thursday during a briefing with reporters.

“I would be surprised if Republicans wanted to argue that [Congress is in session] even though the chambers are empty, even though many members of Congress have described what they’re on now as a recess … all of which plays into our argument that they’re in recess.”

Mr. Obama on Wednesday bypassed the Senate to install three members of the National Labor Relations Board and former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray as director of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Republicans said the appointments amounted to an unconstitutional power grab. The president countered that the move was necessary to overcome GOP attempts to block the nominations.

Presidential appointments typically require Senate approval. But the Constitution grants a president the authority to make “recess appointments” when the chamber is not in session.

Mr. Obama’s appointments came a day after the Senate held a session, albeit a pro forma one without any business transacted. Senators from both parties in the past have agreed it takes a recess of at least three days before the president can use his appointment powers.

But the Obama administration argues that pro forma sessions, which are held in a near-empty chambers and typically last only a few seconds, are a procedural gimmick that isn’t legally binding.

“Gaveling in and gaveling out for seven seconds does not constitute a recess with regard to the president’s constitutional authority,” Mr. Carney said. “We feel very comfortable, as a legal matter, that Constitution trumps gimmicks.”

Newt Gingrich, at an appearance in Plymouth, N.H. while stumping for the Republican presidential nomination, said Mr. Obama has shown “a total willingness to violate the law and impose an imperial presidency.”

“You have a runaway, anti-jobs, anti-business, pro-labor union board, and now they’ll have an absolute majority that has never been confirmed,” Mr. Gingrich said. “And one of the tools Congress has to act is to defund the agency.”

Fellow GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney called Mr. Obama a “crony capitalist” during a stop in Salem, N.H., before heading to South Carolina. And his new TV ad in South Carolina accuses Mr. Obama of packing the labor board with “union stooges” who wanted to stop Boeing Co. from moving jobs to South Carolina.

Mr. Carney said it was “a little rich” for Mr. Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, “to take a position … against the security and protection of working and middle-class Americans.”

This story is based in part on wire service reports.

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