Freshman Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.), the author of a new House resolution disapproving of President Obama’s move to recess appoint former Ohio attorney general Richard Cordray to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is out with a head-scratcher of a news release this morning.
In it, Black renews the argument that congressional Republicans have made against Obama’s appointment of Cordray and three National Labor Relations Board officials — that the move was out-of-bounds because Congress, which has been meeting every three days for brief “pro forma” sessions, is technically not in recess.
“I hope the House considers my resolution as soon as we return to Washington so we can send a message to President Obama.”
As we’ve noted, this is the difficulty of trying to make a procedural argument versus a political one, a situation in which House Republicans have found themselves not once, but twice over the past month.
Without doubt, there is a legal gray area when it comes to Obama’s precedent-changing move to make appointments during a recess of less than 10 days — a move that may eventually come to be resolved by the courts.
But Black’s news release underscores the challenge of making that case when virtually all members of Congress have deserted the Capitol, and members of both parties’ leadership are on congressional delegations abroad or other official business.
Black’s release also states that the names of the three NLRB appointees “were only put forward on December 15th, a mere two days before the Senate recessed for the holiday.”
Most congressional Republicans have argued, however, that the Senate was never technically in recess — GOP members moved to keep both chambers in “pro forma” session over the past several weeks in an effort to block the White House from making any recess appointments.
Stephanie Genco, a spokeswoman for Black, declined to comment on the language regarding the congressional recess. She said that drafting the resolution — which has 80 co-sponsors so far — was something that the Tennessee Republican “felt strongly about.”
“This was something that she was hearing from people back home, who were upset at what had happened, so she wanted to put the resolution together,” Genco said.
It’s worth noting that these types of process fights can, in fact, be helpful in shoring up support among a party’s base voters, and that by demonstrating that they’re making an effort to take on Obama, congressional Republicans may be appealing to conservatives among the GOP electorate.
Still, in the grand scheme of things, the Cordray fight has become one in which Republicans have found themselves battling over little-known rules governing recess appointments while Obama and Democrats are arguing that they are the ones out to “protect the middle class” — a group that will be key in the 2012 election.
The House returns to Washington for its first day of legislative business on Jan. 17; the Senate is back on Jan. 23.