That was then, this is now

Responding to President Obama’s putative recess appointments yesterday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell distributed the following collection of quotes to provide a little context:

THEN-SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL): Recess appointments ‘the wrong thing to do.’ “‘It’s the wrong thing to do. John Bolton is the wrong person for the job,’ said Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., a member of Foreign Relations Committee.” (“Officials: White House To Bypass Congress For Bolton Nomination,” The Associated Press, 7/30/05)

· OBAMA: A recess appointee is ‘damaged goods… we will have less credibility.’ “To some degree, he’s damaged goods… somebody who couldn’t get through a nomination in the Senate. And I think that that means that we will have less credibility…” (“Bush Sends Bolton To U.N.” The State Journal-Register [Springfield, IL], 8/2/05)

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV): ‘An end run around the Senate and the Constitution.’ “I will keep the Senate in pro forma session to block the President from doing an end run around the Senate and the Constitution with his controversial nominations.” (Sen. Reid, Congressional Record, S.15980, 12/19/07)

· REID: ‘They are mischievous.’ “Also, understand this: We have had a difficult problem with the President now for some time. We don’t let him have recess appointments because they are mischievous, and unless we have an agreement before the recess, there will be no recess. We will meet every third day pro forma, as we have done during the last series of breaks.” (Sen. Reid, Congressional Record, S.7558, 7/28/08)

· REID: Recess appointments an ‘abuse of power.’ “Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) denounced the appointment as ‘the latest abuse of power by the Bush administration,’ adding that Bolton would arrive at the UN ‘with a cloud hanging over his head’ because he could not win confirmation.” (“Bush Puts Bolton In UN Post,” Chicago Tribune, 8/2/05)

· REID: A recess appointee will have ‘a cloud hanging over his head.’ “Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) denounced the appointment as ‘the latest abuse of power by the Bush administration,’ adding that Bolton would arrive at the UN ‘with a cloud hanging over his head’ because he could not win confirmation.” (“Bush Puts Bolton In UN Post,” Chicago Tribune, 8/2/05)

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): ‘Troubling.’ “When you have an appointment that is this critical and this sensitive, and the president basically says he’s going to ignore the will of the senate and push someone through, it really is troubling.” (“Bush Sends Bolton To U.N.” The State Journal-Register [Springfield, IL], 8/2/05)

· DURBIN: ‘Could easily be unconstitutional.’ “I agree with Senator Kennedy that Mr. Pryor’s recess appointment, which occurred during a brief recess of Congress, could easily be unconstitutional. It was certainly confrontational. Recess appointments lack the permanence and independence contemplated by the Framers of the Constitution.” (Sen. Durbin, Congressional Record, S.6253, 6/9/05)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA): Recess appointments an ‘abuse [of] the power of the presidency.’ “‘It’s sad but not surprising that this White House would abuse the power of the presidency to reward a donor over the objections of the Senate,’ Kerry said in a statement …” (“Recess Appointments Granted to ‘Swift Boat’ Donor, 2 Other Nominees,” The Washington Post, 4/5/07)

SEN. FRANK LAUTENBERG (D-NJ): “…bends the rules and circumvents the will of Congress.” (“President Sends Bolton to U.N.; Bypasses Senate,” The New York Times, 8/2/05)

SEN. MAX BAUCUS (D-MT): “Senate confirmation of presidential appointees is an essential process prescribed by the Constitution that serves as a check on executive power and protects Montanans and all Americans by ensuring that crucial questions are asked of the nominee — and answered…” (“Dem Baucus Joins GOP In Blasting Obama CMS Recess Appointment,” The Hill, 7/7/10)

Several of these quotes arose from Democratic opposition to President Bush’s recess appointment of the great John Bolton as Ambassador to the United Nations, an appointment which raised none of the legal or constitutional issues that yesterday’s appointments by Obama did. Senator McConnell issued the following statement yesterday afternoon regarding Obama’s “unprecedented” recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board:

“Just hours after he circumvented the American people by ‘recess’ appointing Richard Cordray to the CFPB, the President has upped the ante by making several additional recess appointments, this time to the NLRB. Although all of these appointments potentially raise legal and constitutional questions, the NLRB appointments are particularly egregious. Because the President waited to nominate Sharon Block and Richard Griffin until just two days before the Senate was scheduled to adjourn last month, neither has undergone a single confirmation hearing or a single day of debate by the representatives of the American people. Congress has a constitutional duty to examine presidential nominees, a responsibility that serves as a check on executive power. But what the President did today sets a terrible precedent that could allow any future President to completely cut the Senate out of the confirmation process, appointing his nominees immediately after sending their names up to Congress. This was surely not what the framers had in mind when they required the President to seek the advice and consent of the Senate in making appointments.”

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