A recess appointment is the appointment, by the President of the United States, of a senior federal official while the U.S. Senate is in recess. The U.S. Constitution requires that the most senior federal officers must be confirmed by the Senate before assuming office, but while the Senate is in recess the President can act alone by making a recess appointment. To remain in effect a recess appointment must be approved by the Senate by the end of the next session of Congress, or the position becomes vacant again; in current practice this means that a recess appointment must be approved by roughly the end of the next calendar year. Recess appointments are authorized by Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, which states: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
There is some legal opinion that the Constitution gives a president authority to make a recess appointment only for positions that actually become vacant during the recess.But presidents have interpreted this rather loosely and in different ways.
Pros and cons are still being discussed and quite possibly this issue may end up being decided by the Supreme Court, if Congress is inflamed enough about it, as it appears to be the case. Democrats have held these pro forma sessions during President GHW Bush’s term with sole purpose of preventing these kinds of appointments, but President Obama has decided to challenge the practice by pushing it towards the brink. Usually the Senate has the right to determine whether they are in session or not and it is not in the power of the presidency to dictate or decide for them whether they are in recess or not.
I don’t want to discuss the nuances of the arguments of either side, but believe me they will have tons of them from both sides before it is clearer, if it ever gets to that point.
What is important for me is that these games that they are playing is shaking up the foundation of this constitutional republic; these acts of chicken, faux bravado, pseudo derring-do of bending the rules and playing with the constitution by the president is very dangerous.
It is no secret that I once lived under a nation ruled by socialist fiat and proclamations after the constitution had been trashed. That act led to a political darkness that lasted close to fifty years and only since last year when my classmate–a Nobel laureate– was released from house arrest of some cumulative fifteen years, did they have a new constitution. Even this new constitution is nowhere near what the US has and does not guarantee freedom but preserves the privileges afforded to the military elite.
With the newly granted limited freedom, my classmate spoke out and the first principle that she wanted–she said to a foreign interview on Skype– was the “rule of law” which had been discarded for so long that people cannot even remember what the word means. In America we have been fortunate so far in observing the viability of the constitution and the coequal powers are respected in our governing structure. I have admired these qualities so much that I almost always sing praises whenever I am in the company of foreigners, to educate them and to tout the virtues and to show my pride in my citizenship.
With what went on last week I am disappointed by the disdain the president has for the constitution and my innate fear that we could lose it all, began to flood my senses. Friends, please don’t think what happened elsewhere cannot happen here. Not only can it happen, it can happen very quickly if we don’t protect it and we’ll find out suddenly that we have lost it all. All presidents take an oath to preserve, protect and defend the constitution–but then this president’s oath was waffled (by the chief justice) on inauguration day and maybe just maybe, he feels that he does not have to adhere to it strictly.