Obama 2.0: Now with 30% More Partisanship

What the president's recess appointments say about his new path forward

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Circumventing the Senate confirmation process, President Obama has installed 15 appointees while Congress is out on spring recess. Pundits are spinning it as a sign of Obama's renewed willingness to defy Republican obstructionism. The biggest bone of contention is the appointment of union lawyer Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board. Becker was blocked last month by Republicans and two Democrats, and just days ago, all 41 Senate Republicans signed a letter begging the President not appoint him. Is this a new phase of the Obama presidency?

  • A Brand New Obama  Kevin Drum at Mother Jones writes: "This is not what you do if you're trying to make nice. It's what you do if you're playing hardball and you want to send a pointed message to the GOP caucus. You won't act on my nominees? Fine. I'll appoint my guys and then leave it up to you to round up 50 votes in the Senate for yours. Have fun. Does this mean the postpartisan Obama is finally dying away, overtaken by a newly muscular president willing to duke it out with a Republican Party that he finally realizes has been utterly consumed by its hardcore obstructionist wing? Maybe! Stay tuned."
  • It Certainly Is, writes Joe Gandelman at The Moderate Voice: "If you look at Obama’s decision to roll up his sleeves and his apparent conclusion that he was going to get nowhere with the GOP with these appointments, it suggests he is now in the next phase of his presidency where he is going to try to optimize use of his power as President to get his policies and agenda through, and also optmize his role as head of his party."
  • This Is Bush-League, writes James Joyner at Outside the Beltway: "In yet another way President Obama is like his immediate predecessor, he’s shamelessly abusing the recesses appointment power to bypass Senate intransigence... The recess appointment process... exists solely because the Framers envisioned Congress being out of session for months at a stretch, not a backdoor way to bypass the Senate when it’s on hiatus for a few days."
  • This Is Actually a Positive Trend, writes Scott Lemieux at Lawyers, Guns and Money: "This is simply an area where presidents will — and should — become more aggressive. If the Senate is going to allow its idiotic rules to prevent the president from appointing people to the executive branch — including mostly qualified people with majority support — the use of recess appointments will become more and more common, and rightly so." The Atlantic's James Fallows agrees. "On the merits, this is a welcome move IMHO, both because it is insane (whichever party is in power) to keep major positions in Treasury, Customs-Border Patrol, etc vacant; and because many of these nominees are really excellent choices."
  • Full-Frontal Chicago Politics, writes Jennifer Rubin at Commentary: "This is the reality of Obama — unbending, ideologically extreme, and contemptuous of the other branches. He has revealed himself to be precisely what liberals used to rail against — until they got the levers of power. The Chicago pols are certainly plying their trade."
  • Obstructionism Had Gone Too Far, writes Steve Benen at The Washington Monthly: "The whining is cheap as it is hypocritical. It's not the president who's shown 'little respect for the time honored constitutional roles and procedures of Congress' -- that's actually backwards. Obama has been reluctant to use recess appointments specifically because he wants to see the Senate do its job. But it's reactionary Republicans like McCain who prefer to ignore "time honored constitutional roles and procedures" -- such as the notion of giving qualified nominees up-or-down votes."
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