Late on Wednesday, the White House announced President Obama would make six recess appointments during his vacation in Hawaii. The maneuver allows him to sidestep congressional holds on his appointments, often placed by a single Senator, and usher in nominees for a period of one year. Republicans had objected to Obama's picks for deputy attorney general and ambassadors to Syria, the Czech Republic, and Turkey. His pick for ambassador to Azerbaijan was opposed by Demcratic Sens. Barbara Bozer and Robert Menendez.
Why did Obama have to use recess appointments to get his nominees in? Here's some background on each nominee and what held them back:
- Deputy Attorney General "The most controversial appointment is James Cole as deputy attorney general," writes Carol Lee at Politico. "A longtime friend of Attorney General Eric Holder, Cole was blocked by Senate Republicans who raised questions about his views on terrorism and his work from 2005 to 2009 as an independent monitor at AIG, the insurance giant that received a federal bailout."
- U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan "Matt Bryza, the nominee as ambassador to Azerbaijan, was held up by Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer of California and Robert Menendez of New Jersey over criticism from an Armenian-American group over the Obama administration's opposition to a Congressional resolution condemning the 1915 Armenian genocide," write Sunlen Miller, Kirit Radia and Yunji de Nies at ABC News.
- U.S. Ambassador to Turkey "As for the recess appointment of Francis J. Ricciardone Jr. as ambassador to Turkey, multiple objections were raised at the time he was nominated stemming from his tenure as ambassador to Cairo," writes conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post. She cites an article by Foreign Policy's Josh Rogin in which Ricciardone is criticized for showing a lack of "enthusiasm or energy" when it comes to pushing for "greater respect for human rights and progress toward democracy."
- Public Printer of the United States "My favorite of the current crop is the recess appointment of William Boarman to be Public Printer of the United States," writes John Elwood at Volokh Conspiracy. "Mainly because you’d think you could get a printer confirmed without a kerfuffle, but no." He cites an article from AllGov.com explaining why Elwood's nomination was opposed:
He was nominated on April 16, 2010, but ran into a stumbling block when it was revealed that he had received $3,700 in improper payments from the GPO over a six-year period. The Senate Rules and Administration Committee unanimously endorsed Boarman in July, but he has still not been given a full Senate vote. It is thought that his union affiliations have caused some Republicans to try to derail his confirmation.
- U.S. Ambassador to Syria The main controversy over the ambassador to Syria was not who should negotiate with the state but if anyone should at all, as Jay Solomon and Jared Favole at The Wall Street Journal explain:
President Barack Obama... named the first U.S. ambassador to Syria in nearly six years and a deputy attorney general in recess appointments after the nominations ran into trouble among Republicans. Robert Ford will be sent to Damascus, restoring a top-level presence cut off in 2005 when then-President George W. Bush pulled the ambassador over the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Many Lebanese blamed Syria for ordering the murder, a charge Syria has denied.
The Obama administration has regularly stated that it believes the U.S. can best alter Syrian behavior by having an ambassador in place in Damascus to challenge Mr. Assad's government more directly. The U.S. views Syria as central to American efforts to stabilize Lebanon and Iraq. The White House also hopes to woo Syria away from its military alliance with Iran...
Republican lawmakers had placed a hold on Mr. Ford's nomination in April following reports that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government had transferred sophisticated missile systems to the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.