OTHER VOICES

Recess isn’t the time to play

Posted Jan. 15, 2012, at 6:20 p.m.

How dare Republican senators criticize several critical recess appointments made recently by President Obama as being unconstitutional?

Where was their outrage when, for example, President George W. Bush ignored similar objections by Senate Democrats in 2005 and appointed firebrand conservative John R. Bolton ambassador to the United Nations.

Presidents of both party persuasions have been making recess appointments for centuries. The practice dates back to George Washington. Theodore Roosevelt once made 160 recess appointments in the moments between two sessions of Congress.

Bush made 171 recess appointments and President Bill Clinton made 139. That’s what happens when you have Congresses so wound up in partisan combat that they ignore the right of a president to choose philosophical companions in making administrative and judicial appointments.

One may argue over the proper process that should precede a recess appointment, but the Constitution clearly allows for them when necessary.

And necessity dictated Obama’s appointments to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the National Labor Relations Board. Without these appointments, those agencies could not function at full power.

There was no quorum at the five-member NLRB, rendering it incapable of resolving disputes between unions and employers. The consumer bureau, created by Congress to prevent another financial collapse, needs a chief on board before it can regulate non-bank financial institutions, including payday lenders.

Recess appointments may last only until the Senate’s next session, so Obama’s appointments last week of Richard Cordray to head the CFPB and of Sharon Black, Terence Flynn, and Richard Griffin to the NLRB will expire in 2013. Each nominee is well qualified, but the objections to their appointments have nothing to do with their credentials.

The challenges to their appointments are thinly veiled objections to the roles their agencies play. Republicans have been trying for months to reduce the CFPB’s clout. Likewise, they would rather see the NLRB founder without a quorum than issue directives they describe as pro-union and antibusiness.

The critics are now taking issue with whether the Senate was actually in recess when Obama made the appointments on Jan. 4. Senators who didn’t leave Washington for the holidays theatrically gaveled the Senate into session for a few minutes every few days. That same trick was used by the Democrats when Bush was president.

What a sorry state of affairs. No wonder Congress is held in such low esteem. Its partisans are all too willing to obstruct government to force their philosophical view. That agenda hardly benefits the bulk of Americans.

Philadelphia Inquirer (Jan. 12)

An Iranian D-Day

Just a short time ago, Iran publicly hailed the U.S. Navy’s timely rescue of 13 Iranian fishermen held captive for 40 days by Somali pirates as “a humanitarian gesture.”

“We welcome this behavior,” a spokesman for Tehran’s foreign ministry said.

But what did Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government then actually do? It sentenced an imprisoned American-Iranian to death on trumped-up espionage charges.

And then it announced it has begun enriching uranium — a key step in developing nuclear weapons — at an underground facility.

The death sentence against 28-year-old Amir Mizraei Hekmati, a former military translator who’s been held since August, is the first imposed on a U.S. citizen since the 1979 Islamic revolution …

Whether the sentence ever will be carried out is an open question. History suggests such things are more theater than threat.

Not so the Iranian bomb.

Indeed, the truly disturbing — though not unexpected — news is the confirmation by the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran has switched on a uranium-processing plant tunneled deeply inside a mountain.

The European Union seems set to impose an oil embargo on Iran. Even without China on board, Tehran is hurting. But not hurting enough to shelve its nuclear program.

D-Day for stronger action grows perilously closer each day.

The New York Post (Jan. 9)

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