WASHINGTON (AFP) – Republican senators on Friday forced the US Senate to stay in session over its week-long Memorial Day break in a bid to prevent President Barack Obama from nominating a controversial head of a new consumer protection bureau.
Obama has the right to make so-called “recess appointments” any time the Senate breaks for four days or more.
It is widely expected that the president will appoint the controversial and straight-talking Elizabeth Warren to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Agency.
But her nomination is expected to be highly contentious, and many lawmakers had believed that Obama might make her a recess appointment to avoid a protracted fight with the Senate, which must confirm the appointment.
On Wednesday, Senate Republicans wrote to the Republican leader of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, asking him not to agree to a Senate break, something the House normally does as a matter of course.
“President Obama has been packing federal agencies with left-wing ideologues, but thankfully he won?t be able to for at least the next week,” said South Carolina Republican Senator Jim DeMint, who helped spearhead the move.
“The House will not be sending an adjournment resolution to the Senate, we will remain in pro forma session, and no controversial nominees will be allowed to circumvent the confirmation process during the break,” said DeMint.
The pro-forma session means that Senate Majority leader Harry Reid — or another senator acting on his behalf — is obligated to open the Senate every morning, and gavel it to a close shortly thereafter.
No actual senatorial work will be done.
Warren is known for taking tough positions against some of the biggest names on Wall Street. In September, Obama named her a special counselor to help get the new Consumer Financial Protection Agency off the ground.
The agency, created as part of a Wall Street reform bill passed last summer, is not under direct congressional control — it is financed by the Federal Reserve — although Congress can scrutinize the Fed’s budget.
During a March hearing, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Representative Spencer Bachus of Alabama, called the Consumer Protection board “the most powerful agency ever created.”