Commenter Elliott posed a great question earlier today about Congress’s upcoming August recess and what appointments the President can make during recess to bypass Senate confirmation:
Does that include Attorney General?
and would Bush — at this point — replace Gonzales if he could get away with no confirmation hearings on the replacement AG?
That excellent question made me wonder: How scary is recess? Signs are ominous in Washington:
— The Executive is claiming privilege in new and breathtakingly broad ways, while asserting that the USAttorneys, emanations of his will(!), can never prosecute Congressional contempt citations when he has claimed His Privilege.
— His Attorney General continues to thwart, stall and mislead Congress about everything.
— His UnderSecretary of Defense accuses a Senator on the Armed Services Committee of reinforcing enemy propaganda when she asks about plans to draw down US troops from our Occupation of Iraq.
— The US Senate unanimously hands the Executive a Lieberman-crafted resolution on Iran that Bush might, charitably, see as not permitting him to bomb that country.
— Court stenographers blame Harry Reid for being irresponsible.
Presidents in the past have used the recess appointment for far more important positions, as it turns out, than simply putting Pam Atlas’s favorite mustache ride at the United Nations to piss off libruls (and the rest of the world).
Did you know, for instance, that President Washington appointed Chief Justice John Rutledge during a Senate recess? Nor did I.
Or that Dwight Eisenhower made a recess appointment to the Supreme Court as well? Nor did I.
Ambassadors (James Hormel to Luxembourg, by Bill Clinton; Sam Fox to Belgium, by the current Preznit) are fairly tame examples of the recess appointment power. (Sam Fox’s selection was so dodgy, having been withdrawn moments prior to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee vote, that he cannot draw a government salary in Brussels.)
But this definitely grabbed my attention: in 1992, Lawrence Eagleburger became acting Secretary of State, after James Baker III left State to run Poppy’s re-election campaign. After losing the Presidency, GHWB recess-appointed Eagleburger to be Secretary of State for six weeks. So, yes — there is precedent for recess appointments of Cabinet members by (extremely) lame-duck Presidents.
Well, we’ve seen GWB doesn’t waste a lot of time trying to show up his Daddy! (Recess appointments made next month will last until this Congressional session ends — in December 2008 or January 2009.)
P.S. To Majority Leader Harry Reid — Please don’t holler about the open barn door when recess appointment horses run through it, sir: the keys are in your hands. Lock the door: no August recess, please.