GOP freshmen: Stop recess appointments by stopping recess

A group of 57 GOP freshmen have signed on to a letter asking Republicans leaders to prevent any Congressional recesses for the rest of the 112th Congress, which would block the president from skirting the Senate confirmation process.

More signatures are still being gathered, but the letter is expected to be sent out later this week.

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"Recess appointments are intended to maintain the continuity of administrative government during periods when the Senate is not in session. They are for situations when nominees cannot be considered or confirmed, not for political expediency," said Rep. Jeff Landry (R-La.), who is leading the effort. "My colleagues and I are fully committed to fighting for the American people and against politically motivated recess appointments."

The letter comes as Republicans are looking to outmaneuver the president on contentious selections and as the standoff over his nominations has heightened.

Peter Diamond, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist, launched a sharp critique of the confirmation process after withdrawing his name as a nominee for the Federal Reserve Board.

Diamond, who won the Nobel Prize in October, had been nominated three times by the Obama administration to join the central bank, and had been blocked by Republicans each time.

He called the confirmation process "distorted," and blasted Republicans for having "little understanding of monetary policy" in an op-ed in The New York Times announcing his withdrawal.

And last month, nearly every Senate Republican announced they would block the nomination of any person to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) unless changes were made to it.

That move led liberal groups to call on the president to use his recess appointment powers to name Elizabeth Warren, the CFPB's architect, as its first director. The CFPB is set to begin work in July, but will be limited in what it can do if no director is in place at that time.

Republicans have already blocked one opportunity for recess appointments. When the Senate was slated to take a weeklong recess for the Memorial Day holiday, Republicans forced three pro forma sessions.

House Republicans play a role in setting Senate recesses because under the Constitution, neither chamber of Congress can adjourn for more than three days without the approval of the other.

In apparent recognition that a House Republican refusal to allow recess for the Senate would likely mean the Democratic majority in the upper chamber would do the same, the House freshmen volunteered their time to provide the adequate numbers needed for pro forma sessions during the remainder of the Congress.