There’s a lot of searching around in the dusty nooks and crannies of the Constitution for methods Democrats can use to circumvent Republican obstruction. During the debt hostage situation, these included minting platinum trillion dollar coins and invoking the 14th amendment. One of the reasons to be cautious with those kinds of shenanigans is becoming clear with recess appointments:
The vast majority of freshman Republicans have told House GOP leaders they should block President Obama from making any future recess appointments.
In a letter sent to Republican leaders Thursday, a group of 77 freshman asked them to take any steps necessary to stifle the chance for recess appointments, including blocking any more recesses for the entirety of the 112th Congress.
The trick of not adjourning Congress to avoid recess appointments started with Democrats when Jim Webb drove into town over Christmas, 2007 to bring the Senate into “session” for a few seconds to thwart Bush’s recess appointments. Now the Republicans are using the same procedural trick for the remainder of Obama’s term so they can keep him from making almost any appointments at all.
Recent political history shows that whatever Democrats do sparingly (like filbustering appointees and blocking recess appointments), Republicans make standard practice. Procedural tools that were once used to block a couple of wingnut judges and to stop John Bolton from becoming
Secretary of State UN Ambassador are now being used for the vast majority of Obama appointees. So, a President who’s faced unprecedented obstruction and only made a few recess appointments is now forced to do things like begging Geithner to stick around.
The lesson here isn’t that Democrats shouldn’t fight hard, or that they should be reluctant to use the same tools that Republicans use. It’s that every discussion of baroque, circuitous work-arounds for obstructionism should consider what would happen if the same technique is used to maximum effect by Repubicans. Once you dust off some little-used piece of Constitutional equipment, it’s going to become a standard part of the Republican playbook. When that’s fully considered, my guess is that we’ll want to avoid those dodges and put more energy into reforming the filibuster and keeping a Senate majority.