It’s not clear who was most critical in effectuating the plan to deny President Obama the ability to make recess appointments next week. Last night, the press secretary for Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who together with Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) and 18 other senators had written to the speaker of the House urging him not adjourn the House, e-mailed over a statement: “President Obama has been packing federal agencies with left-wing ideologues, but thankfully he won’t be able to for at least the next week. The House will not be sending an adjournment resolution to the Senate, we will remain in pro forma session, and no controversial nominees will be allowed to circumvent the confirmation process during the break.” Later Vitter and DeMint sent out a formal statement, with Vitter highlighting the benefits of a pro forma session: “Senators should not be punished for holding town halls in our states to hear from our constituents, but that’s exactly what would happen if these radical nominees were recess appointed. I’m pleased we put this off for at least another week.”
But there had been another pressure play under way this week orchestrated by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the ranking minority member on the Senate Budget Committee, who has been (justifiably so) harping on the Senate’s failure to pass a budget. On Monday, he rounded up all 46 of his Republican colleagues to sign a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). They excoriated Reid for failing (for 754 days at that point) to pass a budget. Then on Thursday Session sent a letter signed by all Republican senators to Reid, which read in part:
Today marks the 757th day since Congress last adopted a conference report on a budget resolution. But while the Republican House has met its obligations this year, the Democrat-led Senate remains in open defiance of the law — last year the Senate did not even call up a budget for a vote and this year the Senate Budget Committee has not even marked up a resolution, as required under Sec. 300 of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 (P.L. 93-344).
Despite this dubious distinction, the Senate plans to adjourn for a week-long recess on Friday to coincide with Memorial Day, a holiday that honors our men and women in uniform. As our service members put their lives on the line to defend this nation, surely the least Congress can do is produce a plan to confront the debt that is placing the whole country at risk. House Republicans put forward just such a budget weeks ago — a plan for prosperity to overcome this nation’s dangerously rising debt, cut wasteful Washington spending, and make our economy more competitive.. . ..
Until a budget plan is made public, and until that plan is scheduled for committee action, on what basis can the Senate justify returning home for a one-week vacation and recess while our spending and debt continue to spiral dangerously out of control?
In other words, Sessions and the Republicans were willing to force an adjournment vote. That’s when Reid blinked. Sessions sent out this statement, explaining Reid’s decision to avoid an embarrassing vote to adjourn:
“This Monday I announced that I would object to any effort to adjourn the Senate for recess as long as the Democrat Majority refused to produce a public budget and refused to allow the Budget Committee to meet to work on one. Instead of presenting an honest plan to confront our spiraling spending and debt, the Majority Leader made a mockery of the budget process, crafting a careful plan to prevent any budget from moving forward in the Senate. The entire execution of this plan was designed for political gain and in disregard of the national interest. So disconnected from the public are Democrat leaders in Washington that they even seemed to brag about the political attacks they hoped to launch. And Majority Leader Reid even went so far as to claim that it would be ‘foolish’ for Senate Democrats to produce a budget.
So here we are, 757 days since a budget has passed. During this time we have spent more than $7 trillion dollars and added more than $3 trillion to our debt.
The Majority Leader’s decision not to bring adjournment to a vote — but instead to hold a series of pro forma sessions — is a stark admission that the Democrat Senate cannot justify to the American people its unwillingness to work on a budget. So indefensible is their stance that they have resorted to ducking a simple vote on whether to adjourn the chamber for Memorial Day recess.
The two houses of Congress don’t like to mess with each other’s rules, so both sides were careful to stress they were operating under their own body’s rules. The House leadership simply reports it’s not going to send an adjournment resolution. And Reid, sensing the peril of a floor vote, won’t vote to adjourn. The White House therefore won’t make any recess appointments next week. The only questions are why no one thought of this earlier, and whether Congress will ever adjourn this year.