After denouncing Obama’s recess appointments to the new consumer protection bureau and the National Labor Relations Board as an act of tyranny or worse, it appears Senate Republicans are having second thoughts about entering into a protracted public fight over them:

Ahead of a closed-door party retreat Wednesday at George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate, Senate Republicans suggested that they might let their business allies fight the battle over recess appointments for the National Labor Relations Board and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau...
“I would be surprised if you see mass reprisals,” Sen. Bob Corker added. “I just don’t think that’s what’s going to happen. I don’t think anybody is going to consider that to be a very astute or intelligent thing to do.”

Any senator can use the chamber’s levers to bring business to a halt, but even those who have a history of gumming up the Senate’s work don’t seem eager to jump in.

“I don’t think that’d be a particularly effective strategy,” said Sen. Ron Johnson, who threatened to stymie Senate action last summer over fiscal matters. “I would much rather pursue a positive agenda.”

This is particularly interesting when you consider the larger context. First, Republicans haven’t exactly shrunk from “gumming up the Senate’s work” in the past. Second, Senate Republicans previously had threatened to fight the appointments with everything they had.

Not long ago, for instance, Senator Chuck Grassley vowed that Republicans would “take action to check and balance President Obama’s blatant attempt to circumvent the Senate and the Constitution.” And in mid December, Senator Mitch McConnell asserted that the GOP would not allow any recess appointments, threatening to hold up votes on Obama nominees unless he refrained from using the tactic.

Obama went ahead with the appointments anyway. And now it appears Republicans may decide to leave it to their “business allies” to fight this out in court, if they so choose.

Judging by the quotes above, some Senate Republicans appear to have concluded that it may be a political loser for them to take up his battle. After all, it could reprise the dynamic that played to the Democrats’ advantage during the payroll tax cut fight: it could mire Republicans in an argument about process, even as the White House and Dems make the case for what their new consumer protection bureau would do for the American people.

With polls showing the public blames Congressional Republicans more than Obama for governmental gridlock, it would force Republicans into the position of engineering more dysfunction, while Dems argue that the GOP is trying to undo their efforts to defend the middle class against Wall Street excess. This would play neatly into Obama’s strategy of preenting himself as the true champion of middle class interests while hammering Republicans for prioritizing the rich and running against a historically unpopular Congress.

Even if you concede that the politics of recess appointments themselves are unclear, it’s hard to see how this particular fight would help the GOP brand.