Earlier today the White House announced recess appointments to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the National Labor Relations Board. The appointments were asserted to be recess appointments despite the fact that the Senate has not technically been in recess under the historical understanding of that term. Indeed, Congress has gone out of its way to avoid being in recess specifically to prevent recess appointments being made.
While the specific individuals appointed have not been objected to (and, in the case of two of the Board nominees, have not even been considered by any of the Senate Committees since their nominations were only recently announced), the positions must be filled for the agency to operate with full effectiveness. Rich Cordray, a friend of mine and fellow Michigan State alum, is a very qualified person. However, the Republicans do not want anyone to serve as Director of the CFPB because they oppose the broad, unchecked power of that agency. As to the NLRB, without at least three members, the Board cannot take any official action. Since its recent actions have been opposed by most Republicans, they would prefer it be dormant. It is certain that there will be challenges to this unprecedented assumption of appointment power by President Obama. How soon the challenges will be resolved remains to be seen. It is also certain that 2012 will continue to feature more fireworks.