The House of Representatives adjourned for the summer after the debt limit legislation passed, but will continue to hold “pro-forma” sessions throughout August. The Senate cannot adjourn for more than three days without the approval of the House. Both chamber will open twice a week through Labor Day. Every Tuesday and Friday, the Chamber clerk will open a session, likely with no one in attendance, and bang the gavel once. Senator Harry Reid used the same “pro-forma” session to block G. W. Bush appointments. The downside: Obama’s HealthCare czar, Donald Berwick, was a recess appointment. If Congress was truly shutdown, Berwick would have to face confirmation as a recess appointment expires after one year. Berwick has said he is “romantic” about health care rationing. With the “pro-forma” session, he remains unconfirmed.
…this is one of the few areas where legislative tricks of the trade have actually improved the operation of our government. The process of allowing presidential recess appointments is an antique which modern technology has rendered pointless. Yes, there was a time many generations ago when this power was arguably useful. It could take a long time to get Congress into session when you had to travel great distance literally using horse power. But that’s no longer the case today. In the event of an actual emergency you could have a sufficient number of members back in their seats and ready to screw everything up for us in 24 hours tops.
Unfortunately, there is no simple, permanent legislative remedy to the problem. The power is stubbornly enshrined in Article II, Section 2 of the constitution, so getting rid of it would take more willpower than we are likely able to summon up.
FLASHBACK: In 2005, Senator Obama criticized President Bush’s recess appointment of John Bolton to U. S. Ambassador to the U.N. Obama’s unspoken criticism recognized that Bolton would stand firm against the U.N.’s blatant attacks on Israel.
“To some degree, he’s damaged goods,” Obama said of Bolton. “Not in the history of United Nations representatives have we ever had a recess appointment, somebody who couldn’t get through a nomination in the Senate. And I think that that means that we will have less credibility and ironically be less equipped to reform the United Nations in the way that it needs to be reformed.”
Obama said Bolton has “a lot of ideological baggage,” and having a short-term appointee at the United Nations means the United States will have less leverage to carry out reforms.
It all depends on what the meaning of “reform is,” doesn’t it? Congress will not be in ‘real’ session until after Labor Day.