Government & Constitution

GOP presidential candidates react to Obama non-recess recess appointments

The Republican candidates for president have begun responding to President Obama’s illegal appointment of Richard Cordray to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which violates both the United States Constitution and the Dodd-Frank financial legislation which created the CFPB.  Obama also appointed three new members of the National Labor Relations Board, again in violation of the Constitution. 

These actions have been widely, but inaccurately, described in the media as “recess appointments,” but the Senate is not currently in recess.  We have that on the authority of no less than… President Barack Obama.  As the Heritage Foundation recalls, his vaunted “payroll tax cut” extension was passed by the Senate on December 23, and signed into law by the President on the same day, when the Senate was in pro forma session. 

If we grant the President the extra-Constitutional power to unilaterally decree that the Senate is not actually in session, then he has just completely voided his own payroll tax cut extension.  Or are the last few desperate partisans trying to defend this outrage prepared to argue that Obama gets to decide whether individual days of a pro forma session count as “recess” or not?  Or that the President can sign laws that didn’t actually pass Congress?

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney issued the following statement:

President Obama’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is perhaps the most powerful and unaccountable bureaucracy in the history of our nation, headed by a powerful and unaccountable bureaucrat with unprecedented authority over the economy.  Instead of working with Congress to fix the flaws in this new bureaucracy, the President is declaring that he “refuses to take no for an answer” and circumventing Congress to appoint a new administrator.

This action represents Chicago-style politics at its worst, and is precisely what then-Senator Obama claimed would be “the wrong thing to do.”  Sadly, instead of focusing on economic growth, he is once again focusing on creating more regulation, more government, and more Washington gridlock. As President, I will focus on turning around our economy so that America can once again lead the world in job creation.

Campaigning in New Hampshire, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich addressed the illegal National Labor Relations Board assignments:

The answer to an imperial president is a Congress which stands on its own rights.  And the correct response to what the president just did would be for the Congress to zero out and refuse to fund the National Labor Relations Board. 

The National Labor Relations Board now has a majority of members who were never confirmed by the U.S. Senate.  This is a clear violation of the spirit of the law, and Congress has an obligation to defend our rights, and the correct way is the power of the purse.

Former senator Rick Santorum, also campaigning in New Hampshire, told the Senate to “go to the ramparts on this one,” as reported in the New York Times:

Speaking to a Rotary Club breakfast meeting, Mr. Santorum did not say what actions the Senate should take to stop Mr. Obama’s appointments. He said the country “doesn’t need” the consumer protection bureau and doesn’t want union “radicals” on the National Labor Relations Board.

“You are not above the law Mr. President. The law doesn’t say you can do this,” Mr. Santorum said.

Mr. Santorum is racing against the clock to improve his standing against Mitt Romney in New Hampshire, where voters go to the polls in just five days. But he saved his toughest rhetoric for Mr. Obama.

“I hope the Senate has the backbone to shut the Senate down and say ‘you will repeal these nominees or we are doing nothing,’” he said. “Someone needs to stand up and say, ‘Enough Mr. President. You are not the emperor.’”

Congressman Ron Paul issued a statement in which gets more specific than Santorum about what Congress should do:

By making ‘recess’ appointments to the Consumer Financial Protection Board (CFPB) and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) when Congress is not actually in recess, President Obama has acted in clear disregard of the Constitution.  And the President must be called to account for his actions.

It is disappointing that a former constitutional law professor does not understand that the President is not a dictator or a king who can simply ignore the Constitution whenever he feels frustrated by the system of checks and balances wisely put in place by our Founders.

I have opposed unconstitutional power grabs by Presidents of both parties throughout my Congressional career, and this consistency leaves me as the only Republican candidate with the credibility and the record to challenge President Obama on his continuous overstepping of his constitutional boundaries.

If the President insists on behaving in such a cavalier manner with regard to requirements set forth by the Constitution, then action by Congress may become necessary to rein in his flagrant contempt for the rules.

I have not yet been able to find reactions from Rick Perry or Jon Huntsman, but will update when they become available.  Meanwhile, a bonus tip of the cap to Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), who observed that with the Cordray non-recess recess appointment, “President Obama actually created one job today.”

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