How Are Recess Appointments Like Filibusters?

Will Dawn Johnsen, President Obama's nominee to head the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, become one of the president's recess appointments?

Answer: They get around the pesky will of the majority of the American people.

Here’s a lovely post from the DailyKos praising the president of the AFL-CIO for encouraging the president of the United States to appoint officials during a recess in order to get around the Senate.

We’ve grown used to hearing “progressives” urge Obama to make laws with signing statements and executive orders. The treaty he’s using to occupy Iraq never went to the Senate for ratification. His list of Americans to assassinate was never authorized by Congress. The Fourth Amendment and habeas corpus are not as dearly treasured as people pretended they were when doing so could make a Republican president look bad. But recess appointments is a new one.

When it comes to unconstitutional senate rules like the filibuster, progressives and the president consider them sacrosanct. It’s far more important not to question a rule that lets senators representing 11 percent of Americans block all legislation than it is to pass any of the horrendously bad bills under consideration. One must uphold the rules, be principled, fight fair with “the other side.” The other side is, of course, one of the two parties, even if both parties are opposing the will of the people.

But when it comes to a president, rather than Congress, rules are for pussies. Democratic party loyalists, just like those on “the other side” have a different attitude toward abuses of power when it is a president abusing power rather than congress. That this results in both “sides” year after year shifting more and more power to presidents is not a concern for either “side”. So, when Bush appointed John Bolton during a recess to get around the Senate, that was a horrible thing to do, not because it set a dangerous precedent (it set a good one apparently) and not because Bolton’s policies would mean massive death and suffering (what does that have to do with winning elections?) but because Bush did it. If Obama had done it (and who at this point would dare assert that Obama won’t appoint Bolton to something?) well, then it would have been fine.

Now, the Senate is an institution that almost always opposes the will of the American people. Appointments are blocked by single senators and other maneuvers that are anti-majoritarian even within the hideously corrupt institution of the Senate. Obama could appoint someone to office that Americans would approve of in a referendum, but that at least a few millionaire rednecks in the Senate would never allow. But the president is already LESS accountable to the American people than are senators. The solution here is to improve the Senate, not worsen the presidency.

Anyone failing to fight for the removal of the filibuster rule can shut up immediately about the will of the majority. If we don’t want individual senators blocking appointments or bills, then change the rules and don’t allow that. If we want Senators to follow the will of the people and overcome the corruption of money, media, and party, then we need to establish clean elections, undo corporate personhood, end the doctrine of bribery as “free speech,” create independent media, and at the very least set an example by not ourselves obeying the antidemocratic orders of party leadership.

We can’t do these things, you say? Then what is the point of having given the Democratic Party what they do not admit they have: complete power?

Recess appointments? Really? This will fix soulless, spineless, sell-outs? And nothing worse will come of it?

If looking to the distant future is too difficult, just ask yourself this: Would you want President Sarah Palin making recess appointments? Proceed accordingly.

David Swanson is co-founder of AfterDowningStreet.org and author of the new book Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union by Seven Stories Press. You can order it and find out when tour will be in your town by visiting davidswanson.org/book.

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3 Responses for “How Are Recess Appointments Like Filibusters?”

  1. Jesse Hemingway says:

    Here are some reasons I could tell Obama is a Fraud or a DLC republican.
    1.) He should have used recess appointments a year ago.
    2.) He always goes the extra mile to appease republicans
    3.) Why is bipartisanship so critical?

  2. John says:

    The problem with this article’s comparison of recess appointments with fillibusters is that the President *does* have the Constitutional right and power to make recess appointments (Article II, Section 2), whereas the fillibuster has no constitutional basis at all. Thus, absent a Constitutional amendment removing this power, dragging the prospect of a Sarah Palin presidency using recess appointment is a red herring.

  3. baltus says:

    Look, it is always the (R)ight who when in power begins the search for expediency, let me give you some examples; Richard Nixon had a seething desire to know what the Democrats were saying at their party headquarters in the Watergate Hotel so he bugged the Hotel.
    It was Ronald Reagan’s CIA AND Oliver North who sought an illicit method to raise millions of dollars via the sale of arms to Iran, who incidentally was the subject of an arms embargo, worldwide. Then, those funds were used to by Arms for the Nicaraguan Contras. All of this off the books, under the table the quick and dirty method, again.
    Need I broach the subject of our most recent administration’s guileless adventures?? The (R)ight is so driven by their passion that once they are in power they justify their actions in such a way as to delude themselves into believing “that it was the only option!” The Republicans would much rather travel 400 miles to tell a lie when truth right there in front of them.

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