After the House of Representatives passed the bill to extend the debt limit, it adjourned for the summer, but not before Republicans took advantage of a procedural move that will help block President Obama from making recess appointments during the upcoming break.
While the House will be adjourned, it will continue to hold so-called “pro forma” sessions throughout August. Though it's the Senate that must confirm presidential appointments, under the U.S. Constitution, it cannot adjourn for more than three days without the approval of the House. Therefore, the House has maintained the ability to prevent the Senate from going into full recess, effectively blocking Obama from making recess appointments.
When Democrats took over Congress in 2007, Senate Majority Leader Reid blocked Bush from making any recess appointments by holding such sessions, which could last as little as a few seconds, with the clerk opening the chamber and a Senator striking a gavel to close it.
Reid also agreed to hold “pro forma” sessions last fall during while Senators were out campaigning, and over Memorial Day break.
While the Constitution specifies no minimum number of days required for a recess appointment, a March 2010 Congressional Research Service report referenced a Clinton-era Justice Department brief suggesting it was more than three days.
The CRS report also noted that “(a)lthough President Theodore Roosevelt once made recess appointments during an intra-session recess of less than one day, the shortest recess during which appointments have been made over the past 20 years was 10 days.”