In an amazing coincidence on par with Mitt Romney deciding to oppose individual mandates just in time for the election, on the very day I start this blog named after a lesser known procedural device, the President decides to make a high profile recess appointment. I’d like to personally thank President Obama for cooperating with me on my viral marketing campaign.
The Consumer Financial Protection Agency was created as part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank reforms and is intended to protect consumers from consumer financial institutions who like to use giant legal documents loaded with fine print to, for lack of a better description, “royally screw Americans.” Financial institutions hate the agency as a “job crushing” regulation — even though the last massive round of job losses were sparked by a lack of financial regulation. I guess the justice system unfairly crushes the jobs of murderers too, but I think most of us are cool with that.
However, the organization has not had a director until today because the GOP has systematically blocked the confirmation of any CFPA director in an effort to undermine the agency’s mission because if you can’t democratically block the agency, why not cripple it? After successfully scaring Obama off of nominating Elizabeth Warren and preventing Richard Cordray’s nomination for going to a vote in the Senate, the GOP attempted to prevent the President from exercising his right to make a recess appointment by engaging in a laughable gimmick of keeping the Senate “in session” with pro forma appearances on the floor to argue that the Senate was not technically in recess. This practice, originally used by the Democrats, has not been litigated, but the George W. Bush administration set the precedent of ignoring pro forma sessions and Obama has decided that this opinion seems just about right to him.
As usual, what was great for the Bush goose is apparently horrifying for the Obama gander, because John Boehner has called it an “extraordinary and entirely unprecedented power grab” and Mitch McConnell said the appointment was not legal, even though, for example, McConnell called these sessions “purely political” during the last administration — a fact that the media hasn’t flung in his face as aggressively as they should.
These sessions are a joke, but what is lost in this debate is the purpose of recess appointments. When Harry Reid was complaining about Bush’s recess appointments, he was concerned about the individuals chosen for these jobs — such as the recess appointment of John Bolton despite his refusal to turn over documents to the Senate. This sort of scrutiny is the role of the Senate in the confirmation process. Senate Democrats were not trying to keep the US from having a UN Ambassador — just to keep Bolton out of the job. In that sense a recess appointment was a mockery of the Constitution. Meanwhile, the GOP have no issue with Richard Cordray, but with the existence of the agency itself. The purpose of the recess appointment is to allow the President to enforce the laws of the US even without the Senate. The CFPA is the law of the land and Obama had an obligation to get the agency working.
But I expect to hear crying and gnashing of teeth from Speaker Snooki that the media will just accept at face value.