Tuesday, August 02, 2005

On Recess Appointments

The Constitution
(Article II, Section 2)

"The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session."

George Washington, narrowly interpreting the provision, decided that he could only make recess appointments for vacancies that occurred during adjournments of Congress. But James Madison chose to interpret the provision broadly and from his day forward most presidents have seen fit to fill any vacancy in the government, whether it occurred while the Congress was adjourned or not.

According to G. Calvin Mackenzie, a professor at Colby College, "The principal current use of recess appointments is for the strategic purpose of circumventing the confirmation process. President Ronald Reagan usedrecess appointment powers as part of his effort to undermine the Legal Services Corporation (LSCV), a government agency that provides legal assistance in civil cases for the poor. Reagan made no appointments to the board of directors of the LSC for most of his first year in office. Then, to prevent holdovers who were Jimmy Carter's appointees from determining the 1982 grants of the LSC, Reagan made seven recess appointments on the last day of 1981. Over the next few years, Reagan made several regular nominations to the LSC board, then withdrew them before a Senate confirmation decision. At the same time, he continued to fill vacancies with recess appointments. Reagan appointees were thus able to control the LSC between 1981 and 1984, even though not a single one was confirmed by the Senate."

From: Recess Appointments: Questions and Answers

Also see: A Look at Presidential Recess Appointments

From 2nd article:
President Bush: 106 recess appointments, including Bolton, mostly to minor posts.

President Clinton: 140 recess appointments over two terms.

The first President Bush made 77 recess appointments over one term, and President Reagan made 243 over two terms.

Excerpt NY Times Editorial:
Mr. Bush had been unable to get Mr. Bolton's nomination confirmed by the Senate, so he waited until Congress left town and used his constitutional power to make recess appointments.This is a perfectly legal tactic, though one that has seldom been used to fill this kind of position. A recess appointment is particularly dicey for a major diplomatic post, where a good nominee should carry an aura of personal gravitas and legitimacy.

The problem here from the beginning has been that Mr. Bush clearly has little respect for either the United Nations or international diplomacy in general.

There is plenty to complain about at the United Nations, but real work happens there, and it requires the services of men and women who know how to wring agreement out of a group of wildly different and extremely self-interested representatives. The president has not just sent the United Nations what Senator Christopher Dodd accurately termed "damaged goods." In Mr. Bolton, he has selected goods that weren't appropriate for the task even before the Senate began to hold hearings - when Mr. Bolton's reputation was still in one piece.

The United Nations could certainly be improved, but Mr. Bolton is a poor candidate for a reformer. To make the institution better, the Bush administration would first have to show that it has a vision of what the U.N. could be. That vision has to begin by accepting the fact that nations other than the United States have a right to have a say, and sometimes take the lead.
Ambassador Bolton


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