Should Obama Shut Down Congress?

It's a measure of the sorry state of our politics when an otherwise mild-mannered liberal urges the president to go all constitutional on Congress' ass. But that's essentially what The Daily Beast's Michael Tomasky is urging Barack Obama to do, in light of the fact that Republicans are blocking most of the president's nominees to executive-branch posts, at least those that require Senate confirmation, such as the secretary of commerce and the chief of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (a new entity that Republicans didn't want in the first place). And then there's that empty seat on the Federal Reserve board for which Nobel laureate Peter Diamond was deemed unworthy. Of the 174 nominations Obama has made during this Congress, the Senate has confirmed only 27 -- a mere 16 percent (as compared with 87 percent in the last Congress, when Dems had a more filibuster-resistant majority).

So, Tomasky writes, why shouldn't the president just declare the Congress in recess, and make a bunch of recess appointments (which offer an exception to Senate confirmation)? He finds the authority for just such a presidential action in Article II, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution, which says the president may:

...on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper...(emphasis added)

The disagreement wouldn't be hard to contrive, one assumes, given the fact that both the House and the Senate are in the hands of different parties.

"Too clever by half? Dirty pool? No cleverer or dirtier than what’s been going on with presidential appointments, which is a scandal and disgrace and gets almost no media attention," Tomasky writes.

Then there's this:

Conservatives would howl that he was behaving like a dictator. But liberals would be enraptured, and I feel certain that most independents would be impressed that the guy finally drew a line in the sand over something. An Obama who did that would light this town up, and he’d be making a stand that would serve not only him well but also future occupants of his office of both parties (which is how he could package it in keeping with his post-partisan daydreams). Which raises an important point: a president doesn’t end partisan gridlock by letting the other party steamroll him. He ends partisan gridlock by trying to banish a practice that has become the epitome of partisan gridlock. It’s really not that complicated.

Amen to that.

AlterNet / By Adele M. Stan

Posted at August 11, 2011, 10:26am

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