New York Times: Democrats Defend Appointments

Posted on March 29, 2010

A leading Republican predicted Sunday that President Obama’s appointment of 15 officials while sidestepping Senate confirmation would make it more difficult to get bipartisan support for future legislation.

But senior members of the Obama administration said that obstructionist Republicans had given the president little choice.

“This is going to make problems worse,” Lindsey Graham, a Republican and South Carolina’s senior senator said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

He singled out the appointment to the National Labor Relations Board of Craig Becker, a former associate general counsel for the A.F.L.-C.I.O. whom 41 Republican Senators have depicted as a pro-labor radical and who has been opposed by business groups.

But David Axelrod, a senior White House adviser, speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” said the Republican Party had “taken a position where they’re going to try and slow and block progress on all fronts whether it’s legislation and appointments.” He said 77 people nominated for high-level positions within the administration have not been voted on for months because Republicans have blocked any action in the Senate through such maneuvers as filibusters.

Presidents have the constitutional authority to fill vacancies without the advice and consent of the Senate when Congress is in recess — as they are now for a spring break. Other presidents have used that authority, with George W. Bush making 15 recess appointment by this point in his presidency and a total of 171 by the end, according to Congressional Research Service.

Senator Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, also appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union,” echoed Mr. Graham, saying that “what the president has done here is throw fuel on the fire at a time when the debate about politics is a very angry debate to begin with.”

“What this is going to do is cause the election of a lot more Republican Scott Browns in November who are determined to come in and provide some checks and balances in Washington to stop the overreaching of the government,” Mr. Alexander added, referring to the Republican who was elected to fill Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s seat in Massachusetts and caused Democrats to lose their 60-vote filibuster-proof majority.

In addition to the president’s recess appointments, Senator Graham said the Obama administration’s decision to pass health care without a single Republican vote would also make it harder to pass other tough legislation like an a immigration bill.

Senator Graham has been working with Senator Charles Schumer, the New York Democrat, on crafting a bill that would require illegal immigrants to admit they broke the law before being eligible for legal residency and require workers to carry a biometric identity card to be eligible to work.

The plan was to draw some Republican support, but Mr. Graham said that Mr. Obama’s decision to push through far-reaching legislation like health care has made it harder for Republicans and moderate Democrats to go out on a limb.

“If moderate Democrats were to get a call from the White House to help him on immigration, most would jump out the window,” Mr. Graham said.

Mr. Graham, who was first elected to the Senate in 2002 and to Congress in 1994, has often worked with Democrats, for example sponsoring a bill with Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York to expand health care for Reservists and National Guard troops. And he was one of a group of seven Democrats and seven Republicans who agreed in May 2005 not to filibuster judicial nominees.