GOP forces Senate pro-forma session

Republicans are preventing the Senate from completely adjourning for the Memorial Day recess. Instead, the chamber will come in for three pro-forma sessions over the next 10 days.

The cursory sessions are a formality that will ensure President Obama does not make recess appointments, a prospect that was considered unlikely anyway because the recess is scheduled for only a week. 

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Some Republicans feared that Obama would use the recess to appoint Elizabeth Warren to head the controversial Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which will have broad powers over Wall Street.

A coalition of liberal groups has launched a petition pushing for a recess appointment of Warren.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (Ala.), the ranking Republican on the Budget Committee, also threatened to block the Senate's complete adjournment in order to protest Democrats’ decision not to mark up a budget blueprint in the panel or bring a Democratic plan to the floor.

To avoid the cumbersome process of holding a vote on the adjournment resolution, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) opted for the compromise of holding pro-forma meetings next week, GOP sources say.  

Late Thursday, Sessions derided Reid's decision as a move designed to protect his members who are vulnerable in the 2012 election from making a politically damaging vote.

"When it came down to the moment to vote to recess, as we're required to do to have a recess … the majority leader chose not to vote," complained Sessions. "I guess he wanted to protect his members from having to actually be recorded voting to recess this body when we haven't done our work vote to recess.

“Jeff Sessions is trying to make the point that we should have a budget and shouldn’t adjourn until we have a budget; I don’t think Leader Reid wanted to vote on that,” explained a Senate Republican leadership source.

The GOP source said recess appointments traditionally require the Senate to be absent for more than a week but that doesn’t ensure that Obama wouldn’t have tried to make them anyway.

Forty-six Republican senators signed a letter to Reid authored by Sessions pressing him not to adjourn the Senate without the Budget Committee marking up a spending plan.

“Until a budget plan is made public, and until that plan is scheduled for committee action, on what basis can the Senate justify returning home for a one-week vacation and recess while our spending and debt continue to spiral dangerously out of control?” the GOP lawmakers wrote.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) applauded the GOP action to ensure recess appointments would not take place.

“President Obama has been packing federal agencies with left-wing ideologues, but thankfully he won’t be able to for at least the next week. The House will not be sending an adjournment resolution to the Senate, we will remain in pro forma session, and no controversial nominees will be allowed to circumvent the confirmation process during the break,” DeMint said.

The Senate adjourned at just after 8:34 p.m. and is set to return for a pro-forma session at 9:30 a.m. on Friday.