President Bush has never been one to play the nomination game fairly. His tenure in office has shown he is willing to nominate blatantly partisan candidates to various government positions, particularly the federal courts. In some cases, the Senate has managed to prevent some of these ideological nominees from taking the bench, other times, we haven’t been as fortunate. But just to make sure he packs the courts, administrative agencies and countless other government offices with his right-leaning ideologues, President Bush has tried to skirt the Senates constitutional role of advice and consent through the use of recess appointments. Recess appointments are constitutional, but were never designed to advance a partisan political agenda. By making nominations during the Senate’s recess, there is nobody around to beat back against the administration, but a handful of senators are making sure that it doesn’t happen this summer.
Every three days, Senate Democrats have been holding pro forma sessions (in which no legislative business is conducted) in order to avoid an August recess, and thus, recess appointments. Yesterday it was Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) who ran the session—all 28 seconds of it—with those colleagues that have homes in the D.C. metro area. The effort is being taken on in order to thwart an underhanded attempt to slip some unfavorable conservative nominees into our government. A spokesman from Reed’s office aptly called the tactic a measure to curtail “any mischief from happening.”
The strategy is likely a prudent one, as several Bush recess appointees now hold prominent positions in his administration. John Bolton, the U.S. representative to the United Nations, and Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals judge William Pryor were both ushered into their positions after Senate filibusters (he was later confirmed as part of the Gang of 14 deal), and Charles Pickering sat on the Fifth Circuit as a result of his recess appointment.
The senators are taking the mantra “desperate times, desperate measures” to heart because of the, well, desperate situation President Bush has created in his time in office. And now our president has landed himself in the same category as certain elementary school teachers of our youth—both do all they can to ruin recess.