Congress is taking its first real recess in nearly a year after the House and Senate agreed on Friday to a two-week adjournment for Easter - and a test of whether President Obama will abide by an agreement not to make any recess appointments while lawmakers are gone.
Since last April, the House has convened at least every three days which, under a provision of the Constitution, forced the Senate to come back into session as well. House Republicans had used the maneuver to try to prevent Mr. Obama from using his recess-appointment powers.
In January, however, Mr. Obama ignored that move and invoked those powers to install several contentious nominees, sparking legal challenges that are working their way through the courts.
This week, however, Senate Republicans said they struck a deal with the White House to allow for a full break: The Senate would approve a slate of nominees, and Mr. Obama would promise not to use his recess powers.
House Republicans officially accepted the deal Friday morning, passing it without objection in a pro forma session.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the deal.
Given the partisan divides on Capitol Hill, it’s not surprising that recesses have become political as well.
When Democrats took control of the Senate in 2007, they convened in pro forma sessions to deny President Bush the opening to make recess appointments, which bypass the normal confirmation process.
Republican took control of the House in 2011, and by last May, they began holding pro forma sessions which, under the Constitution, meant the Senate must also come in - and that should have blocked Mr. Obama’s recess powers.
But the president in early January argued that pro forma sessions didn’t constitute real business, and said he was exercising his powers anyway.
On Thursday, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell E. Issa, California Republican, introduced a resolution condemning Mr. Obama’s moves.
The resolution reads: “Resolved, That it is the sense of the House of Representatives that the president exercised the recess appointment power despite the fact that neither the House of Representatives nor the Senate have been adjourned for a period in excess of three days during the second session of the 112th Congress.”
This week’s adjournment resolution passed in a pro forma session of the House - calling into question Mr. Obama’s argument that business is not generally transacted in pro forma meetings.