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January 5th, 2012
Obama Sidesteps the Senate

In a defiant display of executive power, President Barack Obama on Wednesday will "stick his thumb in the eye" of GOP opposition and name Richard Cordray as the nation's chief consumer watchdog. Outraged Republican leaders in Congress suggested that courts would determine the appointment was illegal.

But why are Republican leaders outraged at this recess appointment? Well, mostly because the Senate is still in session.

Although President Obama has constitutional power to make appointments during a congressional recess, Republicans have moved to keep that from happening by having the Senate running in “pro forma” sessions, meaning open for business in name with no actual business planned.

The Senate held such a session on Tuesday and planned another one on Friday. Republicans contend Obama cannot make a recess appointment during a break of less than three days, based on years of precedent.

The Obama White House contends such an approach is a gimmick. For all practical purposes, the Senate is in recess and Obama is free to make the appointment on his own.

McConnell said that Obama's move "lands this appointee in uncertain legal territory, threatens the confirmation process and fundamentally endangers the Congress' role in providing a check on the excesses of the executive branch."

The president plans to argue that the appointment was necessary because, with a new director in place, the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau can start overseeing the mortgage companies, payday lenders, debt collectors and other financial companies.

The Senate's top Republican, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, accused Obama of an unprecedented power grab that "arrogantly circumvented the American people."

Added House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio: "It's clear the president would rather trample our system of separation of powers than work with Republicans to move the country forward. This action goes beyond the president’s authority, and I expect the courts will find the appointment to be illegitimate."

The White House braced for fallout, but said Obama was left with little choice to get the consumer agency fully running after months of stalemate.

White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer announced Obama’s move on Twitter after senior administration officials first confirmed it to The Associated Press.

Obama planned to talk about his decision at an economic event in Cordray’s home state of Ohio, accompanied by Cordray.

Cordray would take over the job later in the week and stands to serve for at least the next two years, covering the length of the Senate’s session.

Obama planned to say that every day Cordray waited for confirmation, millions of people remained unprotected from dishonest financial practices, according to prepared remarks obtained by the AP.

“That’s inexcusable,” Obama says in the remarks. "And I refuse to take 'No' for an answer. I've said before that I will continue to look for every opportunity to work with Congress to move this country forward. But when Congress refuses to act in a way that hurts our economy and puts people at risk, I have an obligation as president to do what I can without them."




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