Pelosi backs Obama's recess appointments

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is defending President Obama's controversial move this week to fill vacancies in his administration while Congress is out of town.

Republicans and business groups have hammered Obama's action as both unprecedented and unconstitutional, but Pelosi argued Thursday that GOP leaders — by blocking the nominees through traditional channels — left the president no choice.

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"I'm very glad that he did," Pelosi said during a press briefing in the Capitol. "It's important for the American people to know what challenges face him as he tries to provide leadership for the agencies of government which have been voted on by the Congress [and] are part of our public policy."

The California Democrat said she's particularly pleased Obama tapped Richard Cordray to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau less than a month after Senate Republicans rejected his nomination.

"In the Wall Street reform bill we had the greatest consumer protections in the history of our country," she said. "The Republicans want to block the appointment, not because they don't think the person is qualified, but because they don't want that agency to function. So I'm proud of what the president did."

Aside from Cordray, Obama on Wednesday used the recess appointment to name three new members of the National Labor Relations Board — a move Senate Republicans had urged the president to resist. GOP leaders were quick to slam the moves, not least because the Senate was in pro forma session, leading Republicans to accuse the president of overstepping his legal authority.

"This recess appointment represents a sharp departure from a longstanding precedent that has limited the president to recess appointments only when the Senate is in a recess of 10 days or longer," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a statement. "Breaking from this precedent lands this appointee in uncertain legal territory, threatens the confirmation process and fundamentally endangers the Congress’s role in providing a check on the excesses of the executive branch."

On a visit to Ohio Wednesday, Obama said Senate Republicans left him no other option but to act unilaterally to appoint Cordray.

“When Congress refuses to act, and as a result hurts our economy and puts our people at risk, then I have an obligation as president to do what I can without them,” Obama said.

Pelosi, for her part, steered clear of the constitutional arguments Thursday, saying any controversy surrounding the legality of Obama's move is for others to hash out.

"Let that be the public debate with the Senate," Pelosi said. "Fortunately or unfortunately for us, we do not have a role in the confirmation process.

"But we're glad the president took the lead," she added, "went out there, was bold and made the appointments."