Senate schedules pro-forma sessions to block Obama's recess appointments

The Senate adjourned for the year shortly after 3:30 p.m. Saturday, but GOP leaders insisted on holding ten cursory pro-forma sessions over the next month to stop President Obama from making recess appointments.


Rarely much happens in these ceremonial sessions, over which a local senator from Virginia, Maryland or Delaware usually presides. The point of scheduling them is to stop the president from circumventing Congress on nominations. A senior GOP aide said no president has made a recess appointment during a break of less than 10 days in the last 20 years.

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Republicans are wary of Obama appointing a director to the new agency tasked with implementing Wall Street reform during the congressional recess.

Republicans blocked Obama’s nominee to the agency earlier this month because they do not like its structure. They argue it should be subject to more congressional oversight.

Senate Democrats have urged Obama to use a recess appointment to install Richard Cordray as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Obama said he would look at all options to appoint a director to the financial protection agency, which otherwise cannot regulate payday lenders, student loan companies and other non-bank entities.

The upper chamber wrapped up its work for the year after passing a two-month extension of the payroll tax holiday and a $1 trillion omnibus appropriations bill earlier in the day.


Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) tried to win unanimous consent for a slate of executive and judicial branch nominees shortly before the end of session but Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) objected.

McConnell allowed the confirmation of Michael McFaul to become ambassador of Russia and a group of Defense Department appointees but declined to let other nominees through unless President Obama promised not to make recess appointments over the Christmas break.

The GOP leader did not appear to get the assurance but safeguarded against the possibility by scheduling pro-forma sessions throughout the rest of December and the early part of January. 

The Senate will be back in regular session on Jan. 23 when lawmakers will vote on the nomination of John Gerrard of Nebraska to the district court of Nebraska.


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