Monday, February 15, 2010

No 'Testicular Fortitude' in this White House

The Obama Administration is said to be terribly understaffed due to the Republicans' refusal to confirm Obama's nominees. So what does Obama do about it? With a historic number of holds on his nominees, does the President summon a little of that famed 'testicular fortitude' and prepare to make some recess appointments?

Um, no. Instead, the President effectively bows down to Republicans and promises he won't hurt them. Because governing the country is not so important that we want to risk hurting the feelings of Republicans.

Ezra Klein explains:

"On Tuesday," the president said in a statement released last night, "I told Senator McConnell that if Republican senators did not release these holds, I would exercise my authority to fill critically-needed positions in the federal government temporarily through the use of recess appointments. This is a rare but not unprecedented step that many other presidents have taken."

At this point in his presidency, George W. Bush had made 10 recess appointments. Over the course of his presidency, he would make almost 200. Bill Clinton made about 150. In describing recess appointments as "a rare but not unprecedented step," Obama made it harder to actually make any, because he's defined the procedure -- which, unlike the hold, is a defined constitutional power of the president rather than a courtesy observed in the Senate -- as an extraordinary last-resort. He also promised, later in the statement, that he wouldn't make any appointments this recess. . .

What was the danger, then, of making recess appointments? That it would lead to a fight over Republican obstruction that the administration might actually win?