Wicker to boycott Cordray hearing to protest Obama 'recess' appointments

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) on Thursday afternoon said he would boycott a planned hearing next week in which Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Director Richard Cordray will testify, as a way of protesting Cordray's recess appointment to that post when the Senate was not in recess.

"Let me be explicitly clear," Wicker said on the Senate floor. "Richard Cordray is not the duly constituted director of the CFPB. His purported recess appointment does not comply with the Constitution, and is in fact a nullity.

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"I will not provide the administration with the appearance of legitimacy in this action, and I will therefore not be in attendance at next Tuesday's hearing."

The Senate Banking Committee will hold a hearing titled "Holding the CFPB Accountable: Review of the First Semi-Annual Report," on Tuesday, Jan. 31. Wicker is the newest Republican member on that committee.

Wicker said he hoped his absence would help start a debate in the Senate about Obama's recess appointments, which Republicans have criticized as a violation of the Constitution. Wicker and other Republicans argue that under the Constitution, a recess cannot happen unless both parties agree.

"The House of Representatives had not formally given our chamber that consent when the President made his appointments," he said today. "Moreover, senators had agreed by unanimous consent to remain in pro forma session."

Wicker also argued that the Justice Department's memo that sought to justify the appointment of Cordray and three nominations to the National Labor Relations Board was flawed because it means the White House can determine on its own when the Senate is in recess.

"Reversing years of precedent, the administration is asserting that the executive branch now has the authority to decide when the Legislative Branch is or is not in session," he said. "This presumptuous action by the president goes far beyond the limited powers he is granted by our Constitution.

"It is an affront to the democratic checks and balances as established by our Founders, and it constitutes a gross violation of precedent set by those who have come before us."

Earlier today, Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) argued that the Obama administration is acting like it "doesn't need Congress at all."

In early January, Grassley asked for a detailed explanation of the Justice Department's views on when recess appointments can be made under its new legal opinion. But while Grassley asked for a reply by Jan. 20, Justice has not yet gotten back to the senator.

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