Friday, December 9, 2011

This is your government.

Dave Weigel describes the ever-mounting appointments crisis.
I asked Lugar how IPAB would be affected if no one was confirmed to it. “There’s always the possibility of filling these jobs during a recess,” he shrugged. But perhaps Lugar doesn’t even need to worry about that possibility. Since the end of May, the Republican-run House has effectively ended recess appointments. How? By simply refusing to go into recess.

This isn’t a new idea. When Democrats took the House and Senate in 2006, they declined to pass adjournment resolutions during breaks. Keeping Congress in “pro forma sessions” turns out to be easy—you send a member from Virginia or Maryland in to bang the gavel every third day, and voila, no recess. Republicans aren’t saying anything on the record yet about how they’ll handle the end of the year, when there’s typically a short recess to mark the interregnum between sessions. (There’s a chance that the payroll tax fight could drag on longer than they planned.) We do know what they’re allowed to do. The House could refuse to adjourn until the moment before the next session begins. On Jan. 3, at 11:59 a.m., it could end the first session of the 112th Congress; at noon, the second session would begin. No time for a recess. No way for Obama to appoint someone to the CFPB or anything else.

Are there ways for the administration or Senate Democrats to get around this? There are theories, and the political scientist Jonathan Bernstein has been collecting the best ones. ThinkProgress judicial blogger Ian Millhiser has called for Obama to use “the Teddy Roosevelt precedent” and copy what the original progressive did in 1903, when a half-day recess turned into an orgy of 160 appointments.
There's something not-so-vaguely revolutionary about the Republican Party's de facto rejection of any outcome that runs counter to its own interests. After all, isn't that what a revolution is? Political disputes that spill outside the usual arena because the opposition refuses to honor the ordinary process for resolving political conflict. Whatever substantive differences divide the combatants, opposition becomes an attack on the legitimacy of the system itself.

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