However, Reid also deserves credit for his willingness to play hardball with President Bush when it comes to nominations and recess appointments.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said he would schedule "pro forma" sessions during the two-week break, even though lawmakers will be absent and no business will be conducted.
According to the Senate website, traditionally, a pro-forma session is "a brief meeting ... held usually to satisfy the constitutional obligation that neither chamber can adjourn for more than three days without the consent of the other." When confronted with a non-traditional president like George W. Bush, it has another use.
Pursuant to Clause 2 of Section 2 of Article II of the U.S. Constitution, the president
by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for.
When the Senate is not in Session, Clause 3 of that section states that
[t]he President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies
that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall
expire at the End of their next Session
According to a report by the Congressional Research Service, the purpose of the power in this clause was "to allow the President to maintain the continuity of administrative government through the temporary filling of offices during periods when the Senate was not in session."
However, in recent times, Presidents have used recess appointments to confirm nominees who might be rejected if the Senate were to vote on them. George Bush has used the recess appointment for this purpose more than any other president, and for some of the extremely unqualified and controversial appointees.
Some of the worst:
- Alice Fisher to be Assistant Attorney General (in charge of investigating Abramoff)-she had strong ties to indicted Representative Tom DeLay and indeed to Abramoff himself.
- John Bolton to be U.N. Ambassador-Bolton had notably said in 1994 that "there's no such thing as the United Nations"
- Sam Fox to be Ambassador to Belgium-Fox was a top funder of the Swif t Boat Veterans for Truth
- Hans von Spakovsky to be a commissioner of the Federal Elections Commission-Spakovsky had been the mastermind of purging legitimate voters with criminal records from the rolls in Florida; this led Senator Barack Obama to put a hold on Bush's attempt to renominate him.
The Bush administration made a decision (which they almost certainly regret) to inform Senator Reid that they'd be making some recess appointments during the Thanksgiving recess. However, in violation of long-standing tradition, Bush has totally ignored Democratic recommendations to such important agencies as "the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission."
Reid decided he wouldn't let the administration have their way this time. He's scheduling pro-forma sessions throughout the Thanksgiving break to keep the Bush administration from making any recess appointments.
For this, at least, he deserves praise.