The Cordray Crisis

January 5th, 2012 at 11:02 am David Frum | 89 Comments |

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Constitutional abuse begets constitutional abuse.

President Obama has engaged in a dubious maneuver to force a recess appointment through a Senate that denies it has recessed.

(Brad Plumer has a good run-down of the legal issues, here.)

The president’s action has ignited a fireworks show of Republican outrage. And yes, Obama has here pushed presidential power beyond past limits.

But it’s not only presidents who can bend the rules. The Senate has also pushed its powers here beyond the usual limits. The Senate is pretending to be in session when it’s obviously not in session. It is engaging in this pretense in order to use its power over confirmations to negate an agency lawfully created by the prior Congress. Most fundamentally, the Senate here is further extending a weird quirk in its own rules–the quirk that allows individual senators to delay votes on appointments–in ways that allow the Senate minority to impose its will on the whole US government.

Over the past three decades, we have lived through a prolonged cycle of partisan revenge. Each party pushes the law to score partisan points in ways that would have been deemed unacceptable only just a little while ago. Then at the next turn of the cycle, the other party pushes the law further and wider and even more destructively. One by one, they sequentially smash the customs and traditions that enabled the US government to function. This latest episode over the Cordray appointment may be the most extreme example. But it’s surely not the final example.

It is instead an ominous milestone in the deterioration of the US political system into ever more intense acrimony and paralysis.

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89 Comments so far ↓

  • TerryF98

    “The Senate has also pushed its powers here beyond the usual limits.”

    It’s not “the Senate” It’s the REPUBLICANS stupid.

    • LauraNo

      I wouldn’t call it partisan revenge either. Somebody is trying to get something DONE!, darn it! *I* wouldn’t call it partisan revenge but if *I* were a partisan apologist for the nastiness of my party, *I* might.

  • balconesfault

    Then at the next turn of the cycle, the other party pushes the law further and wider and even more destructively.

    Can you tell me how the Democrats under Bush pushed the law further and wider and more destructively than the Gingrich Congress did?

    Please don’t feed us another steaming pile of false equivalencies for breakfast. The GOP have been the truly bad actors over the last 20 years.

    If anything, you should be championing Obama’s action here. The nation has an interest in having competent administrators. The GOP seems to believe that kneecapping the Executive Branch by making it impossible to appoint administrators is how the public should be served.

    Let’s have this debate.

  • Reflection Ephemeral

    The chart and quote below are from this James Fallows post: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2011/10/chronicles-of-false-equivalence-chapter-2-817/246667/

    To make it clear: requiring 60 votes for everything is new, and it is overwhelmingly a Republican tactic.

    Unfortunately you would get no hint of that from today’s WaPo story. Every line in it was in keeping with the implication of the photo: partisanship and extremism “on both sides” was bogging the Senate down. I could quote any paragraph from it at random (and you can check for yourself)…

    No, it is not hard to tell [which side is winning]. Since Scott Brown’s victory over Martha Coakley and the end of the Democrats’ 60-vote majority, Mitch McConnell has flat-out won, and (in my view) the prospects of doing even routine public business have lost, by making the requirement for 60 votes for anything seem normal rather than exceptional. And by eventually leading our major media to present this situation as an “everyone’s to blame” unfortunate and inexplicable snafu, rather than an intended exercise of political power by one side.

    ADDED, from longtime Republican staffer Mike Lofgren’s essay here: http://www.truth-out.org/goodbye-all-reflections-gop-operative-who-left-cult/1314907779 : A couple of years ago, a Republican committee staff director told me candidly (and proudly) what the method was to all this obstruction and disruption. Should Republicans succeed in obstructing the Senate from doing its job, it would further lower Congress’s generic favorability rating among the American people. By sabotaging the reputation of an institution of government, the party that is programmatically against government would come out the relative winner.

    A deeply cynical tactic, to be sure, but a psychologically insightful one that plays on the weaknesses both of the voting public and the news media. There are tens of millions of low-information voters who hardly know which party controls which branch of government, let alone which party is pursuing a particular legislative tactic. These voters’ confusion over who did what allows them to form the conclusion that “they are all crooks,” and that “government is no good,” further leading them to think, “a plague on both your houses” and “the parties are like two kids in a school yard.” This ill-informed public cynicism, in its turn, further intensifies the long-term decline in public trust in government that has been taking place since the early 1960s – a distrust that has been stoked by Republican rhetoric at every turn (“Government is the problem,” declared Ronald Reagan in 1980).

    You are part of the problem, when you write that this is a problem of “both sides” or “the system”. It is not. It is an avowed Republican strategy. Don’t muddy the waters.

    • Traveler

      I have railed at the false equivalency of the MSM, and you point out another sorry example. Instead, they show how Clinton and Bush were nearly equal opportunity appointers. But it did note BO only had 29 so far. Hopefully we will see a lot more.

      But it is deeply disappointing to see DF follow down this path. Mittitis has scrambled his brains, and ethics.

    • jamesj

      Good post. I agree.

    • LauraNo

      Not only does our media misinform by promoting false equivalences and pretending issues are ‘balanced’ but they don’t do the work required to call reporting, reporting. If Clinton and Bush had about the same number of recess appointments, were the reasons for the appointments being done in recess similar? Who knows? Not me…

  • Traveler

    It kind of started with Bork being opposed by democrats. Even though they didn’t use every trick in the book, their opposition was so vehement that things have gone downhill ever since. Turns out he would have been truly horrible, but that’s beside the point.

    Fact is, Senate rules need a major overhaul. Indefinite holds being up to one senator is a total abuse of power, particularly by the POGers in this senate. I believe there some hundred or so. Maybe this will bring things to some sort of head. But it will only get sorted out after the election.

    Meanwhile, BO will use this as a cudgel to hammer the POGers. Glad to see him not even try to play with the minutes between false session rules. He intends to make them challenge it in court. I am no attorney, but it could be a very interesting case that might shed some clarity to the whole gamut of Senate rules. Others here can clarify this two cents.

    • Reflection Ephemeral

      Or it started with a revisionist like Bork being nominated at all.

      Republican judges have been more ideological, according to conservative jurist Richard Posner: http://balkin.blogspot.com/2008/05/judge-posner-skewers-textualism.html (Not blockquoting, because it makes everything ugly, but all that follows is from the link):

      Through a statistical comparison, Posner shows that conservative Justices on the current court more consistently vote in accordance with their political values than do liberal Justices (some of the numbers can be found here [ http://balkin.blogspot.com/2008/05/judge-posner-skewers-textualism.html ]); and that the current generation of Republican appointed federal court of appeals judges shows a significantly higher proportion of conservative votes than Republican appointed judges over the past eighty years (Republican appointed federal appellate judges from 1925-2002 vote conservative 55.8% of the time; Republican appointed currently sitting judges vote conservative 66.9%); whereas there is no significant change in the conservative voting pattern (49.6%; 49.7%) of Democratic appointed judges between these two periods, and a reduction in their liberal votes (43.5%; 39.5%).

      Put more simply: the Supreme Court Justices and Appellate Judges appointed by Presidents Reagan, Bush and Bush vote consistent with their political views at a higher rate than previous Republican appointees, and at a higher rate than Democratic appointees. That’s what the numbers show.

      • Traveler

        Too true, but I accept the outcomes, even if I don’t agree. (Except Citizens United- did you see what Montana Court just did?) That said, this is America and these judges were duly nominated and confirmed, so we gotta live with them. There have been notable exceptions as well. I believe some of the appellate judges supporting the ACA were appointed by republicans.

    • dante

      BS. Bork was given an up/down vote, and he LOST 58-42. It might have been the start of rejecting candidates based on their (extremist) ideology, but it certainly wasn’t anywhere in the same league as the obstructionism going on today.

      • Traveler

        Dante, pay attention. I didn’t say there was any parliamentary obstructionism, but I could have said so more clearly. I just said that was when things started to get really snippy.

        • elizajane

          Not sure what you mean; Bork was nominated by Reagan.

        • LauraNo

          Boy are you quick, Eliza! I misspoke. All this talk about the Bork nomination made me do it. :) I was actually going to complain about John Bolton. But I noticed my mistake just when I was leaving the house so I deleted the comment.

    • Primrose

      I agree. I think he did it to force them to take it to court and challenge the refusal to bring nominations to a vote. If that ploy gets struck down by the court, then Mr. Obama has freed up a logjam that is troubling the courts. Given how many judges nominations are held up despite overworked and overburdened courts, I think the courts will not look favorably on obstruction.

  • armstp

    The Congress is in recession. They specifically have stated that no government business is to be done.

    They cannot use some BS supposive technicality to say they are not in recession.

    • Traveler

      Recession? Is that a slip, or some truly excellent wordplay? You could say there is no business to be done even when in session in this recession. :)

      • abc123

        They are definitely not in recession.. I’m pretty sure they make a lot of money no matter how much they screw us,

    • chephren

      If Congress is in recess (not recession – that would be the economy since the financial system crashed under Bush), the constitution allows the president to make recess appointments to federal offices.

      Note the constitutional authority. As much as you might wish otherwise, the Congress does not dictate to the Executive what powers it may exercise.

      • armstp

        I think you are misinterpreting what I have said. I am saying the congress is in recess and Obama has the right to do recess appointments. In fact, Congress has said that as part of their currently holiday that “no government business can occur”. This is the language the Obama adminstration will quote if they have to go to court.

    • armstp

      My bad… i obviously meant recess….

  • nitrat

    To me as a southerner, living amongst and listening to southerners my entire 60 years, this goes back more than 30 years. It goes back to Richard Nixon.

    I would say that most southern Republicans my age believe Richard Nixon was run from office for offenses that Democratic presidents had done before him and gotten away with. The revenge game has been on ever since and as the Southern Strategy (phase 2 = Tea Party) has spread across the country, it has intensified. Maybe some pollster should throw in a question about whether Nixon did something other presidents had done while polling likely GOP voters and see what pops up. I have no doubt what it would show.

    The GOP has held the White House for 29 of the last 42 years (Nixon’s inauguration in 1969). It was wrongly taken from them in 1973. They will do any damage to the country that is necessary to keep it.

    • chephren

      The White House was not “wrongly taken” from Republicans in 1973 – they continued to occupy it until 1977. Perhaps you’ve heard of Gerald Ford. Then they retook the presidency in 1980 and held it for another 12 years.

      This is hardly the basis for a historic grievance over the loss of Republican power.

      Funny that you and your Southern friends explain away Watergate with the claim that Democrats did the same thing – wasn’t the South a reliably Democratic bloc until the passage of civil rights laws? If Democrats were just as bad as Nixon, that was fine with Southerners.

      Do your Southern friends also pine for the loss of the Civil War and the end of the Jim Crow laws? Maybe it’s time for them to grow up and move on.

      • armstp

        Chep,

        I think you are again misinterpreting what is being said. I do not think Nitrat is giving his view, but the view of those Southerners around him that he hears.

        • Primrose

          Well if they feel so for Mr. Nixon, why didn’t they speak up when Mr. Blogoiavitch (still have no idea how to spell this name) was put in jail? Because like the benighted Illinois governer what Mr. Nixon did was illegal and specifically corrupt.

          Mr. Frum is talking about the abuse of power (legal)which is a separate matter.

  • overshoot

    Each party pushes the law to score partisan points in ways that would have been deemed unacceptable only just a little while ago.

    I’m reassured to know that everyone is equally to blame for this Charlie Foxtrot.

  • Slide

    Another false equivalency from David.

    • Primrose

      Well, except Mr. Frum did actually put blame on Congress for this which is something.

  • Nanotek

    Asked and answered.

    Perhaps a crisis for Republican obstructionists because fighting this puts their war against working class Americans in the limelight — it can’t legitimately be declared a constitutional crisis.

    Petitioner’s argument, in the main, is that even if the President may use the recess power to appoint so-called Article III judges, he may not use that power to fill vacancies which arise while the Senate is in session. He urges that the recess power was never intended to apply to all vacancies; that in point of time it may be exercised only when the Senate has adjourned; and, in the plain language of the Constitution, it may be used only to fill vacancies which ‘happen during the Recess of the Senate.’ We are informed that Alexander Hamilton, in the Federalist No. 67, stated that the recess power was created for ‘the purpose of establishing an auxiliary method of appointment,’ in cases where ‘the general method was inadequate.’” United States v. Allocco, 305 F. 2d 704, 709 (1962)

    http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=13286230916747373696&q=Recess+of+the+Senate&hl=en&as_sdt=2,6&as_vis=1

    • dante

      The problem with bringing up “original intent” is that I’m 99% certain that the founding fathers had NO intention of things like “filibustering advise and consent”. There’s no “filibuster” in the Constitution, there’s no “6/10ths of the body must agree on the president’s nominee”, NOTHING. To have someone claim to be a strict constructionist and then defend the absolute clusterf*** that we have now in Congress is hilarious.

      • Nanotek

        + 1

        you said it better than I

        my point is simply that if this appointment is a “crisis” it is a political crisis (for Republicans)… not a Constitutional crisis… and Obama did not “abuse” the Constitution with this appointment

        I’m glad he did… I’m just glad he’s finally fighting back against the GOP with the options as hand rather than playing Abe-Lincoln-with-his-cabinet

  • TerryF98

    Deep yawn…Geo­rge W. Bush made 171 recess appointmen­ts, of which 99 were to full-time positions

    Compare and contrast to President Obama who had made 28 recess appointmen­ts, all to full-time positions until the appointmen­ts he made this week.

    Reagan is the leader in the club house with 240. 240 endangerin­g non-checks on the excesses of the executive branch and therefore impeachabl­e, appointmen­ts!

  • Houndentenor

    Republicans failed to block creation of this job and now they are trying to block anyone being hired to do it. That’s nonsense. I think most people will be happy when there is someone standing up for consumers. The corporate near-monopolies have been putting the screws to working Americans for far too long.

  • anton

    Obama should have recess appointed Bernard Madoff to the position.

    Then we could discuss the equivalence of him to Bush and JOHN BOLTON.

    • LauraNo

      hee-hee. Exactly. Some people really can’t see straight and the media calling things balanced all the time ensures they will never see straight.

  • Deep South Populist

    Obama made the right decision here. A few people trounced me the other day when I criticized Obama for not forcing through the Cordray appointment using his executive authority. “Oh, no, he can’t do that; it would be unconstitutional!”

    And what do you know; he ended up using exactly this approach. Sometimes you have to fight fire with fire. While it’s unfortunate, the GOP definitely started this particular fight when it violated the law by using parliamentary tricks to keep the Congress “in session” when it was clearly not in session.

    Of course it should be pointed that Obama is not above a little cheap theater and grandstanding. He made the Cordray appointment the day after the Iowa caucus, and in Ohio, a swing state, when he could have done it anytime anywhere.

    I have also read in one NON-RIGHT WING media source that the Democrats started using this particular trick FIRST (technically keeping the Congress in session when it’s not in session). The Dems used it to deny GWB some of his recess appointments, so, in this instance, the GOP was simply using the Democrats’ own tactic against them (assuming the story I read was correct about the facts).

    I do not remember where I read this, but it was definitely not in right wing media. I think it was in an AP story. I can’t find it now, because too many Cordray stories are coming over the wire.

    In addition, the Democrats are totally and solely responsible for the degeneration and dysfunction in the appointment process.

    The Democrats started it. They used the truly despicable tactics first when they slandered Judge Bork. Although Judge Bork was exceptionally well qualified for the position, and certainly far more qualified that Kagan and Sotomayor (lol at that intellectual comparison), the Dems opposed him for ideological reasons.

    So you reap what you sow, Democrats. Where this is going to end is an open question.

    • rubbernecker

      I do not remember where I read this…I can’t find it now.

      Fail

      • Deep South Populist

        I will look for it later.

        • Reflection Ephemeral

          I don’t feel like looking for it, but I’ll vouch for it. The difference, I think, if any, is that the Dems did it with control of the Senate, which has a constitutional role in confirming advisors, as opposed to the house. I don’t know enough to dig into that.

          I’d just note this: as Judge Posner noted above, Republican judicial nominees have been much further to the right than Dem nominees have been to the left. And when the Dems tried to prevent recess appointments, they were responding to stuff like Bush’s appointment of John Bolton, who was so extreme that GOP Sen. Voinovich, among others, came to an emotional opposition. http://thinkprogress.org/security/2005/05/12/853/voinovich-speaks-truth-to-power-then-cowers-in-corner/ In contrast, today’s GOP is declining to confirm anyone, even someone like Cordray who they openly admit is well qualified, to head an agency duly created by law. (And see James Fallows’ chart above on GOP behavior in the Senate).

          The Republicans have been playing constitutional hardball for decades. This is a very small response by Pres. Obama.

          ADDED: I think, DSP, the reason that people responded so negatively to your suggestion, was that it read, to me at least, like you were saying that Pres. Obama should have just made up some executive privilege to appoint Cordray. What he has done here is use the recess appointment power, straight out of the Constitution. It’s an admittedly contentious one, that pepple can take issue with, but it’s not anything Yoo/Bushian, which I think accounts for people’s responses to your comment the other day.

        • rubbernecker

          This is a very small response by Pres. Obama.

          It certainly provoked an outsized response from GWB apologist David Frum:

          And yes, Obama has here pushed presidential power beyond past limits.

          Wow, no love for the imperial presidency all of a sudden?!

        • Deep South Populist

          Judge Posner noted above, Republican judicial nominees have been much further to the right than Dem nominees have been to the left.

          Posner might be right about the totality of all federal appointments; however, when it comes to the SCOTUS, GOP presidents have appointed far more liberals than the Democrats have appointed conservatives.

          It’s evidence the Democrats are more ideologically rigid, at least on SCOTUS appointments, than the GOP is rigid.

          Ultra-Liberal GOP Appointments

          Earl Warren (15 years)
          William Brennan (34 years)
          Harry Blackmum (24 years, wrote the majority opinion for Roe v. Wade)
          John Paul Stevens (35 years)
          David Souter (19 years)

          Total

          5 appointments / 127 years on the court

          Ultra-Conservative Democrat Appointments

          ZERO

        • balconesfault

          And we thought you would LOVE you some John Paul Stevens, what with him supporting the Death Penalty and voting against affirmative action in the Bakke decision.

        • ottovbvs

          “It’s evidence the Democrats are more ideologically rigid, at least on SCOTUS appointments, than the GOP is rigid.”

          To start with most of these Republican appointments are ancient history and the most recent one (Souter) was entirely accidental as ANY conservative would tell you. You can’t give us an example from the last 20 years because both side are now equally ideologically rigid. However the Dems don’t tend nominate complete doofuses (eg. Thomas and Miers). Apart from that it’s a complete non sequitur in the context of this discussion.

      • dante

        Democrats did it to keep Bush from making recess appointments.

        http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0508/10596.html

        The only problem with using that as an example is:

        1) Bush got a legal opinion that he could do exactly what Obama just did, but didn’t follow through. My guess is that it would have been an appointment that wouldn’t have been viewed favorably by the American public, so keeping it in the public eye by challenging Congress on it would not have been politically advantageous to him. On the flip side, Obama has made a VERY popular decision here. “Republican Obstructionism” and “Republicans don’t want financial regulation or consumer protection” are both stories that play very well, and *will* play very well in the upcoming 11 months.

        2) I personally don’t think that the Dems should have done it either. I think they should have stayed and WORKED instead. Stay in session, with all of the Democrats there, showing the American people that you’re working to solve America’s problems… No more 1-month-long vacations so you can go fund-raise for your upcoming election. I haven’t had a month+ vacation around Christmas since college.

    • Traveler

      Agree for the most part, but you are wrong about Bork on several counts. Even though brilliant, he was, and is, off his rocker as far as his constitutional interpretations. But that is a matter of interpretation that I will let others argue.

      As a result, the dems vehemently objected, but they DID NOT use any holds or other filibuster procedures. So you are totally wrong that dems started it. See my post and Dante’s response above. So fail on those counts.

      • Deep South Populist

        they DID NOT use any holds or other filibuster procedures [on Bork]. So you are totally wrong that dems started it.

        Except Reagan was forced withdraw Bork’s nomination, so they did not have to use holds and other parliamentary tricks against him. The Democrats kept Bork off the court by peddling lies and smears to damage his public reputation. The Dems’ approach of aggressively attacking the Bork appointment over ideology rather than qualifications was a definitely a historical first. The Dems were the first to argue ideology as a dis-qualifier.

        In Bork’s case, the despicable tactics were the lies the Dems told about him not procedural tricks as was the case with Richard Cordray. However, although the particulars differ a bit, the principle here is the same. In both cases, the dissenting party opposed the appointment based on ideology not qualifications.

        So I am right on this one.

        • Traveler

          No, you are just being stupid. We are not talking about smears- the topic is holds and filibusters. They NEVER happened in this instance, so you cant keep going on around making up new topics and tangents to justify your misstatements. Facts rule, and you have to stick to them.

          Partisanship has been around even longer than the nation. The use of holds and filibusters is largely a POGer tactic, and the record is abundantly clear on that. Mainly because the POGers cannot win on the merits, just like Bork lost in the vote. So they got to be sneaky, which is the issue with the topic. And while I didn’t much like Bork’s hearing process either, it looks like it was what he deserved. His latest pronouncements make me very glad that Kennedy got his nod. A far better jurist. But we are welcome to our own opinions on that.

        • Deep South Populist

          No, you are being stupid, stupid. I didn’t think schoolyard insults were your style. If you disagree with my reasoning, fine. But while facts do rule, you don’t get to decide which facts are relevant in a debate that is partially about opposing appointments over ideology and using dishonest tactics to stop the appointment.

        • Traveler

          DSP,

          Sorry about being puerile. It was just that the only way I could accept your reasoning was if you thought I were stupid, and that ticked me off. It is not my usual approach to commenters like you that at least think coherently more often than not.

          The facts of the issue remain though, and your tangent into “dishonest tactics” was and is a straw man. It is holds and filibuster calls that are dishonest when applied to every candidate and piece of legislation, and your stubbornness in denying that is quite frankly beneath you.

        • ottovbvs

          “Except Reagan was forced withdraw Bork’s nomination,”

          Except he didn’t withdraw Bork’s nomination. A majority of the Judicial committee voted against his nomination and normally that would have doomed it but Bork insisted on a up or down vote and got one where as I recall his nomination was defeated something like 58 to 42. You’ll have to stop making this stuff up.

          “you don’t get to decide which facts are relevant”

          Apparently you reserve to yourself the right make facts up.

    • ScienceChick

      Mom, HE started it! He called me a name and that’s class warfare! So I kicked him! and it’s his fault! and now I’m punching him in the nose! Because I’m angry, angry angry and it’s all his fault!

      My god, can’t you even grow up a little bit?

    • jakester

      You are spot on about the appointment, DSP
      But spare us the Bork whining. He was a pompous hypocrite who favored censorship

    • Primrose

      OK, let’s just get over Bork all ready? You can blame the increased difficult of looking into Sotomayer on Bork but not every political trick that has ever existed.

      And while Mr. Bork had good background, I see no reason to think he was a towering intellect that dwarfs Ms. Kagen and Ms. Sotomayer. And why just them, one might ask?

      There were legitimate philosophical reasons for the Democrats to oppose his nomination. He had supported a poll tax in the past and expressed approval of pulling back civil rights legislation. This view was not slander since he was a “strict constructionists” legal scholar.

      That’s not just politics, that’s philosophy. That is a decision about who is and who is not a citizen.

  • dittbub

    Partisan revenge works for republicans. Its popular among republican voters. Not as much support from democratic voters for their politicians to do the same.

  • kevinkelly262

    Frum, question: has the SCOTUS ever adjudicated a case re: House or Senate procedure?

    I know they usually keep out of the internal procedures of the legislative bodies, but if this keeps going the way it’s going, with internal legislative procedure being used to block action by the Executive branch, or even to block regular legislative activity, do you think this will cause legit constitutional issues that will end up in a Supreme Court case?

    For instance, if the filibuster is used ALL the time, is this not a de facto amendment to the Constitution, taking away the rights of the majority of the body?

  • heap

    why is it that i get facts in the comments and twisted rhetoric in the articles?

    for real, just once, let’s change things up – David, you present actual facts without even attempting to put shine to a turd, and the rest of us will go all rhetorically loony on you.

    viva variety, and all.

  • jamesj

    False equivalence extraordinaire!

  • ottovbvs

    Crisis? A bit of an exaggeration surely. And Frum; if the Senate is as you claim perpetrating a fiction when it claims to be in session how exactly does this recess appointment constitute “a dubious maneuver?” Frankly no one outside politicians and political junkies is remotely interested in this sort of political kabuki theater. On the substance the Republicans are welcome to create a fight with the president over the appointment of a head of the CPA whose major task is to protect Americans from predatory banking and lending practices. Good luck with that one Mitchell and Boehner.

  • chephren

    What a crock. If the Senate is “in session”, what is it doing? What laws have been passed? What debates are in progress? What committees are holding hearings?

    Obama is absolutely right to appoint Richard Cordray to head the CFPB in the way he has. This badly needed agency exists and must be led. Far from being a nefarious instrument of federal control over the banks, as Republicans claim, it will do much to restore public confidence in the US financial system.

    To date the President has made about 30 recess appointments, far fewer than George W. Bush, though Obama has faced a far more recalcitrant Congress. Bush made 171 recess appointments during his term, including John Bolton as US Ambassador to the UN. Where was the conservative outrage then?

  • LFC

    “Each party pushes the law to score partisan points in ways that would have been deemed unacceptable only just a little while ago. Then at the next turn of the cycle, the other party pushes the law further and wider and even more destructively.”

    Yeah, like judicial appointments. Republicans blocked 60 of Clinton’s appointments by refusing to have hearings. Dems then upped the ante and block 10 of Bush’s. Oh, wait. 10 is less than 60. You might say 6X less. (Currently Coburn seems to be on a single-handed mission to block anybody he doesn’t like. Jesse Helms reborn?)

    Sorry, David, but you have an informed readership. The downside is that you really can’t expect to present false equivalence without being called on it. You better up your game.

  • willard landreth

    More Frum hyperbolic nonsense. Never mind that he do research and complain about those who did similar acts in office – especially Saint Ronnie or the Bush family robbers.

    An article today in “think progress”

    http://thinkprogress.org/

    President Obama Has Made Far Fewer Recess Appointments Than Any Recent President | Despite the inevitable conservative complaints that President Obama is engaged in some kind of massive overreach by recess appointing Richard Cordray as the nation’s chief consumer financial protection watchdog, the truth is that Obama has used his recess appointment power very sparingly. After today’s appointment, President Obama will have made a total of 29 recess appointments. By comparison, George W. Bush made 171 recess appointments; Bill Clinton made 139 recess appointments; George H.W. Bush made 77 recess appointments; and Ronald Reagan made 243. When you divide these numbers by the number of years each man spent in the White House, it reveals that Obama is far and away the least likely president to invoke this power.

    • chephren

      Blah, blah, blah.

      You big silly person . . .

      Don’t you know, IOKIYAR*??

      And Reagan did NOT make 243 recess appointments. Uh-uh. Never. No way, Jose. He never raised taxes 11 times, either. And he didn’t run huge deficits, triple the national debt, cooperate with Congress, save Social Security, negotiate arms treaties with the Soviets, pull out of Lebanon, add a new cabinet-level government department (Veterans Affairs) and add 61,000 employees to the federal payroll. Never happened. Liberal lies.

      :o )

      (*: It’s OK If You’re A Republican)

    • nuser

      Mr.Landreth.
      I copied and pasted most of your comment unto Krauthammer’s post , and for that I am sorry
      to have done without your permission. By no means do I really know about intricate workings of any government , but research is another matter and human nature as well. I did not include your name , and if that is good or bad , I know not. My apology.

  • Rob_654

    Given that the Republican Party is all about the private sector, hard work, work ethic, how do they really claim to be In Session when they are playing cheap games?

    If I or anyone else logged into our work email for 30 seconds, then shut it down and went home, would our employer say “Ok, you’re working” and let it go? Of course not.

    If the Republicans want to be “In Session” they should get their butts back to DC, and be at work – be In Session for at least 6 hours a day and another 2 hours in their offices doing whatever they are doing.

  • Holmes

    Frum is in full-out partisan mode. We will see no thoughtful analyses from Frum until after the election. Someone, please turn off the lights on this blog. It’s over.

  • JJWFromME

    This latest episode over the Cordray appointment may be the most extreme example.

    You’re kidding, right?

    (Did the last ten years happen, or what?)

    • wileedog

      Try 6 months. I don’t know how this even remotely compares to the House GOP holding the debt ceiling and the US credit rating hostage this summer.

      • nuser

        It doesn’t ! Frum’s article is ugly and dishonest. One commenter mentioned the calm before the storm and he is so right.BTW this article very much resembles Krauthammer’s .

  • Oldskool

    “The president’s action has ignited a fireworks show of Republican outrage.”

    Of course he hoped it would ignite outrage and this thread plays along nicely. Nothing but upsides when the least popular group of people in the country, congressional Rs, are upset. Happy days are here again.

  • Ray_Harwick

    David Frum declares himself in favor of predatory lenders. He calls it a constitutional crisis when Obama takes on predatory lenders and the GOP did everything in their power to prevent Obama from taking on predatory lenders who seek to pick the bones of the middle class. Help me, Mr. Frum. Wasn’t it predatory lending that (ahem!) recently brought this nation to its financial knees?

    • nuser

      Beginning to see the light?

    • Antipodean

      Yes, predatory lending was one of the root causes of the financial crisis.
      Yes, the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection was set up, in part, to combat predatory lending.
      Yes, the Republicans are keeping Congress “in session” when it clearly isn’t in part to prevent the appointment of a leader to the BCFP that enable it to get down to business.

      But it does not follow that everyone who opposes Obama’s move here does so in order to protect predatory lenders. Even putting aside the Constitutional question, using the recess appointment power in this way is hardly limited to the appointment of anti-fraud agency leaders. For example, what if some future Republican president by-passed a Democratic Congress to appoint an oil-industry lobbyist to head the EPA?

      The ends do not always justify the means.

  • Nanotek

    “… when it comes to the SCOTUS, GOP presidents have appointed far more liberals than the Democrats have appointed conservatives. It’s evidence the Democrats are more ideologically rigid, at least on SCOTUS appointments, than the GOP is rigid.”

    Deep South Populist, even if your liberal/conservative polarity works, you can’t conclude that from that evidence since the GOP Presidents thought they were appointing conservative ideologues.

    The best summary may be that serious conservatives to the Court adopt, as better, a liberal Constitutional interpretive enterprise — inalienable and unenumerated rights, as well as enumerated rights, that government was instituted to secure — Roberts/Alito and Thomas notwithstanding.

    At least Scalia, walks his talk, to some extent.

    • AnBr

      And you cannot try to use appointments going back so far. The Republican and Democratic parties (and judiciary for that matter) were a very different entities than what we have today. Nearly another false equivalency to go fishing so far back in history.

  • nuser

    Someone open another Forum ,please, this one is sleazy!

  • dante

    By the way, constitutional or not, it’s *not* unprecedented. Teddy Roosevelt made 160 recess appointments on a *one day* recess.

  • jorae

    Evens vs Stevens 2005

    High court refuses to hear case on ‘recess appointment’ made by Bush.

    Constitutional abuse begets constitutional abuse…..exactly

  • tctribune

    Obama’s move was bold. But it was the right thing to do. The threat of recess appointments should be there in order to force the Senate to act. For the Senate to unfairly hold up the appointment and then to further the paralysis by gaming the Senate rules is unacceptable. The President acted as he should at this point. He showed leadership. Mr. Frum just can’t come to terms that while both sides are creating the mess in Washington, the GOP carries a majority of the blame.

    • balconesfault

      One of the real ironies is that in the past, one of Frum’s biggest criticisms of Obama has been that he hasn’t played enough hardball with the GOP … and that this showed a lack of leadership or character or some such on Obama’s part.

      At some point, Frum may have to admit that Obama really is the one politician out there who he’d most want in the White House at this time. Apparently not yet, though …

  • josebrwn

    Ominous was McConnell holding up hundreds of appointments as hostages in the quest to cripple the CFPB, as well as the gratuitous crippling of the NLRB.

    I am very proud of my president today.

  • dugfromthearth

    I don’t understand this article. Frum declares that the Republicans are pretending to be in session when they are not. Obama made recess appointments when the Senate is not in session. As far as I can see, Frum should believe that Obama did nothing wrong. But Frum mysteriously says that Obama did something wrong.

  • Obama’s recess appointments: Unconstitutional? (The Week) | Cirklenews.com

    [...] are bending the rules: Obama really has “pushed presidential power beyond past limits,” says David Frum at Frum Forum. But congressional Republicans did the same thing by pretending the Senate is “in session [...]

  • Banty

    Obama did what he had to do. You can’t bring a knife to a gunfight, and expect to be anything but dead.

    He forced the issue, brought out the Congressional blockage into the open.

    Jon Stewart did a great spot on the actual pro-forma session in question.

  • Biped

    Senators were elected by the American people to carry out legislative functions, not enact charades. This pro forma continuation ‘in session’ is nothing so much as an exhibition of contempt and disrespect on the part of the Republican members for the the government of the United States of America and the constitutional process.

    The President is right to disregard this nonsense and do the people’s business.

  • Ogemaniac

    “The president’s action has ignited a fireworks show of Republican outrage. And yes, Obama has here pushed presidential power beyond past limits.”

    Ohhh, the crocodile tears of rampant hypocrisy. The most obstructionist congress in history by a wide margin is whining that Obama did an end around?

    WAAAHH!! MOMMY!!! WAAAH!!

    Hypocrites burn in eternal hellfire. My Republican friends better figure this out quick, and spend the rest of their lives begging for the forgiveness of their eternal souls, lest the burn forever.