Senate blocks Obama from making recess appointments during August break

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced that the chamber would be in “pro forma” sessions throughout August, effectively blocking President Obama from making any recess appointments.

Among other possibilities, the move will prevent Obama from appointing a new head of the controversial Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as well as a new member of the National Labor Relations Board, which has a vacancy opening up later this month.

As I reported yesterday, the Republican-controlled House used a procedural move to help force this issue. 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. The House adjourned yesterday, but will remain open in so- called “pro forma” sessions.

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. On Tuesday, he announced the Senate would hold eight of these sessions in August and one in early September until the chamber returns from 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.”

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