White House says no recess appointments during recess

The Obama administration has told Congress that it will not attempt to make any recess appointments while Congress is on break next week, a pledge that allowed the House and Senate to formally adjourn and go on recess.

For the last year, Congress has preferred to hold occasional pro forma sessions during weeks when there is no work in Washington, a GOP strategy aimed at preventing the White House from making appointments while the Senate is out. Because neither chamber can recess without the approval of the other, House Republicans have been able to refuse to adjourn, forcing both chambers to hold pro forma sessions every few days during which no work is done.

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The GOP strategy failed to prevent President Obama from making four controversial appointments in January, when he named three nominees to the National Labor Relations Board and one to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Those appointments have led to a legal challenge, based on arguments that the Senate was not in recess.

Senate Republicans have said they would submit a friend-of-the-court brief in favor of arguments that those appointments were unconstitutional.

While Obama's appointments led to intense anger from Republicans, the two sides seem to have discovered at least one way to navigate those weeks when Congress is not working in Washington. In late March, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said on the Senate floor that after discussions with the White House, it was agreed that no recess appointments would be attempted during the two-week Easter break.

That allowed both chambers to adjourn for two weeks, allowing them their first true recess in a year.

A similar patterned emerged late this week. According to a senior Republican Senate aide, the White House again said it would not make any recess appointments. That allowed the Senate to vote on an adjournment resolution, S.Con.Res. 43, which lets the Senate leave for good, with no pro forma sessions, until Monday, May 7.

The Senate's action was conditional on House approval of the resolution, and the House approved the same resolution in a voice vote early Friday afternoon before adjourning shortly after 3 p.m.