An ‘abuse of power’

Posted by: ST on August 1, 2005 at 6:12 pm

Would someone tell me when the President’s exercising the authority he has to make recess appointments became an abuse of power?  I see the usual suspects ratcheted up the rhetoric several degrees today by making false claims about the President’s recess appointment of John Bolton as ambassador to the UN:

"At a time when we need to reassert our diplomatic power in the world, President Bush has decided to send a seriously flawed and weakened candidate to the United Nations. It’s an unnecessary result, and the latest abuse of power by the Bush White House. … Bolton arrives at the United Nations with a cloud hanging over his head." — Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

"It’s sad that even while the president preaches democracy around the world, he bends the rules and circumvents the will of Congress in appointing our representative to the United Nations." — Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (news, bio, voting record), D-N.J.

"Abuse of power"? "Bends the rules"?  And of course I couldn’t leave off Senator Bloviator himself:

"The abuse of power and the cloak of secrecy from the White House continues. … It’s a devious maneuver that evades the constitutional requirement of Senate consent and only further darkens the cloud over Mr. Bolton’s credibility at the U.N." — Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (news, bio, voting record), D-Mass.

"Devious maneuver"?  Of course you know what the word "devious" conjures up in people’s minds – dark, sinister, underhanded – no doubt Ted Kennedy knew exactly what he was saying when he made that statement.  Just what in the hell is so "devious" about exercising your authority as President to LEGALLY appoint someone during a Congressional recess?  Do the above Senators (who were no doubt posturing in front of the cameras for face time today) have a clue as to the history of recess appointments?:

President Clinton: 140 recess appointments over two terms. Among them:

_Former Sen. Wyche Fowler, D-Ga., ambassador to Saudi Arabia, August 1996. Put in the post two months after a bombing that killed 19 American soldiers stationed there, he received Senate confirmation in October 1997 and served until March 2001.

_Mickey Kantor, commerce secretary, April 1996. He replaced Ron Brown, who died in a plane crash, but left in January 1997 before his nomination went before the Senate.

_Roger Gregory, 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, December 2000. He was later re-nominated by Bush and confirmed by the Senate.

_Bill Lann Lee, assistant attorney general for civil rights, August 2000. Blocked by Senate Republicans, he was appointed acting assistant attorney general in 1997, then received the recess appointment to serve out Clinton’s term.

_James Hormel, ambassador to Luxembourg, June 1999. A gay philanthropist whose nomination was blocked by Senate Republicans, he remained ambassador until near the end of Clinton’s term.


_The first President Bush made 77 recess appointments over one term, and President Reagan made 243 over two terms.


Other recess appointments of note:

_President John F. Kennedy appointed Thurgood Marshall to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in October 1961, getting around opposition from Southern senators. Their resistance had weakened by the following September, and the Senate approved him 54-16.

_President Dwight Eisenhower made three recess appointments to the Supreme Court: Chief Justice Earl Warren (1953) and Associate Justices William Brennan (1956) and Potter Stewart (1958). Each later received Senate confirmation.

_President George Washington appointed John Rutledge of South Carolina as chief justice during a 1795 recess. The Senate rejected the nomination and his appointment expired after he served one term.

I swear, if these guys aren’t making up clauses in the Constitution or making patently absurd assertions about "President Bush’s right wing Supreme Court" (which doesn’t exist, because the President doesn’t have the first nominee on there yet), they’re outright LYING about a recess appointment being an "abuse of power" and a "devious maneuver" on the part of the President when they know darn well it’s not! 

My question is: will the media call them out on this nonsense or not?

More: Captain Ed comments and nails it:

As far as it being an "abuse of power" that evades "Constitutional requirement" of a Senate confirmation, perhaps Senator Kennedy might like to read Article II, Section 2, Clause 3 of that same Constitution:

Clause 3: The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.

No abuse of power there; the Constitution clearly gives the President the exact power he just exercised. The Senate appears to have abused its power by denying Bolton an up or down vote on his confirmation, however, because the word "filibuster" doesn’t appear anywhere in the Constitution, nor does the right of endless debate.

Bang on.

(Linking up with Mudville Gazette’s open post)

8/2/05: Joining up with the OTB Traffic Jam

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  • 12 Responses to “An ‘abuse of power’”


    1. Giacomo says:

      Nice piece. I’ve linked it over at my place, Joust The Facts. Do you remember the brouhaha over Bill Lann Lee?

    2. wayne says:

      This just goes to prove what I’ve always said: these sum total of Teddy Kennedy’s knowledge about devious maneuvers invovles drowning pregnant girlfreinds in his car.

      The only decent use I could ever think of for this scumbag was if he’d had the decency to take a couple of bullets for his brothers!!

    3. wayne says:

      “these sum total”…sheesh I need some coffee!!

    4. Giacomo: Vaguely, but I read your blog just now and got a refresher on him. Wonder if Ted Kennedy was talking about abuses of power back then? ;)

      Wayne: He certainly isn’t someone to take seriously on any issue,that’s for sure. The media just gives him a lot of face time because they agree with him. 😡

    5. Shipwrecked says:

      The Democrat reaction shows 2 things:
      1) That the more they complain, the better the Republican appointee becomes..
      2) That there are still signs of brain activity amongst Democrats.

    6. Hi Ship! Not so sure I agree with #2 ;) but I definitely agree with #1.

    7. NYgirl says:

      Hypocracy is the official creed of the Democrates. Great post.

    8. Hello NYgirl and welcome to ST – and thanks :)

    9. erasmus says:

      Washington Times Link

      Senator Orrin Hatch, Utah Republican, said in 1997 about the possibility of a recess appointment of Bill Lann Lee, “If [Clinton makes] a recess appointment, then I have to say, it’s a finger in the eye of the Senate. I think you’d find there would be an awful lot of repercussions from that.”

      To paraphrase Sister: Why in the hell would exercising your authority as President to LEGALLY appoint someone during a Congressional recess be considered a ‘finger in the eye of the Senate?’ Why would you threaten repercussions against a President for exercising his Constitutionally granted power? Oh, that’s right, I forgot that was Clinton — the Constitution wasn’t in force during his administration.

      As to Captain Ed’s brilliant analysis of how it can’t be an ‘abuse of power’ since the Constitution gives the President the ‘power’: If you were not granted a given ‘power,’ it would be impossible to abuse it. So simply pointing out that the Pres. has the ‘power’ to make recess appts does not mean that any given appt is not an abuse of that power or that that power, somehow, cannot be abused. Since so many conservatives endorse ‘originalism’ as their preferred way to apply the Constitution, you’d expect cons to generally oppose any recess appt — unless it was truly an emergency appt that could not wait for Congress to reconvene. But that would require consistency from the righteous Right — something they claim but rarely exhibit.

      Why is the Bolton appt an ‘abuse’ of power? Because Bush could secure an up/down vote on Bolton by providing the documentation that has been requested. Spare me the ‘moving the goalposts’ nonsense. The facts are that the Ds did NOT increase their demands vis a vis Bolton, in fact, they moderated their demands — trying to make it easier for the WH to comply. Bush, rather than working with the Senate, decided to abuse his power to make recess appts and force Bolton through — even in the face of bipartisan opposition to a very questionable nominee. I think the reason Bush did not release the docs and go for an up/down vote on Bolton, is that it is likely that it would have been a ‘down’ vote.

    10. Your entire post made absolutely no sense. The president has the authority to make recess appointments – period. Ted Kennedy and the rest of his demagoguing pals in Washington DC know this isn’t an ‘abuse of power’ but saying it sure does make a nice soundbite, doesn’t it?