GOP Rep. claims Congress not in recess, vows post-recess action

By Stephen C. Webster
Wednesday, January 11, 2012 10:34 EDT
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President Barack Obama. Photo: AFP.
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A Republican Congresswoman from Tennessee really stepped in it this week.

Leading the charge for Republicans against President Barack Obama’s recent recess appointments, Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) issued a press release on Tuesday castigating the allegedly unconstitutional picks and insisting that “Congress was not in fact in recess.”

But three sentences later, Black said (emphasis added): “I hope the House considers my resolution as soon as we return to Washington so we can send a message to President Obama.”

Rep. Black has proposed the House pass a non-binding resolution condemning the president for the appointments, and so far 71 Republicans have signed on.

In an effort to block President Obama’s recess appointments, Republicans have been using a tactic known as “pro forma” sessions, or sessions of Congress that are mere formality. During a pro forma session, Congress is gaveled in, the pledge of allegiance is recited, and the session is immediately adjourned. Democrats used a similar tactic to block President George W. Bush’s recess appointments, but they failed.

Republicans, too, failed to block Obama from naming Richard Cordray to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), after the president’s lawyers told him that gimmicks like pro forma sessions aren’t enough to stop him from conducting the government’s business while members of Congress are away.

President Obama has repeatedly insisted that Congress end its obstruction of his choice to lead the CFPB, which was created by an act of Congress (PDF) in response to the financial calamity at the end of Bush’s second term that nearly cut off the flow of credit in the U.S.

Republicans have remained steadfast in opposing his nominees, including Harvard professor Elizabeth Warren, who is now running for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts. Their filibuster has required the president’s nominees get 60 votes in the Senate, rather than a simple majority of 50. Due to the chamber’s narrow partisan divide, that has proved to be impossible on many issues.

The House is expected to reconvene on Jan. 17, with the Senate to follow on the 23rd.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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