After a long year, Congress grants itself an actual recess

The House and Senate left for a two-week break that, for the first time in a year, will not be punctuated by occasional pro forma sessions. Instead, both chambers passed an adjournment resolution this week, granting themselves an actual recess until they both return on Monday, April 16.

It's the first adjournment resolution Congress has approved since last year's Easter break. House Republicans have frequently rejected the idea of a recess, as they have been wary of recess appointments by the Obama administration. In an effort to get around this possibility, the House has insisted on holding pro forma sessions, which often last just a few minutes.

The House can insist on these informal sessions because under the Constitution, neither the House nor Senate can recess without the consent of the other body. By rejecting a formal recess, the House has forced both chambers to hold two brief sessions each week, requiring at least one member to preside in the chamber.

The GOP was outmaneuvered in January, when the Obama administration ignored the pro forma sessions and recess-appointed three nominees to the National Labor Relations Board, and Richard Cordray to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Republicans fumed over those appointments, and have warned that the decisions these bodies make could be challenged as invalid because they will be made by people who did not legally assume their positions.

Just this week, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) introduced a resolution that says it's the sense of the House that Obama's January appointments are not valid.

Despite this battle, Republicans appeared to be put at ease enough to allow an official recess this Easter, in light of a deal that Senate leaders agreed to with the White House. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Thursday that as a result of these discussions, there would be "no recess appointments" over the Easter break.

After that was announced, the Senate approved S.Con.Res. 38, an adjournment resolution that says that upon passage, both chambers will stand "recessed or adjourned" until noon April 16 for the Senate, and at 2 p.m. the same day for the House.

The Senate tentatively scheduled some pro forma sessions in case the House was not able to approve the adjournment resolution. But in a brief pro forma session Friday, the House approved the resolution by unanimous consent.

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