GOP blasts Obama for 'unprecedented power grab' with appointment

Republican leaders in the House and Senate are blasting President Obama's move to recess-appoint a key nominee as an "unprecedented power grab."

Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenators near deal on sexual harassment policy change Blankenship third-party bid worries Senate GOP Overnight Finance: Trump signs repeal of auto-loan policy | Justices uphold contracts that bar employee class-action suits | US, China trade war 'on hold' MORE (R-Ky.) said the president "arrogantly circumvented the American people" in his effort to recess-appoint a key nominee and argued the move "fundamentally endangers" Congress's ability to check the "excesses of the executive branch."

House Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerGOP revolts multiply against retiring Ryan Can Jim Jordan become top House Republican? Tensions on immigration erupt in the House GOP MORE (R-Ohio) called the effort an "extraordinary and entirely unprecedented power grab ... [that] would have a devastating effect on the checks and balances that are enshrined in our constitution."

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He also hinted that a legal challenge to the move could be in the works, adding he expects "the courts will find the appointment to be illegitimate."

A House GOP aide told The Hill that lawmakers might not have standing to file a lawsuit over the appointment, but a business affected by the agency would. So if a financial institution "gets clobbered by the agency," it could sue to challenge the nomination, the aide said.

White House officials confirmed Wednesday that the president has decided to push through his nomination of Richard Cordray to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) via a recess appointment. The president is expected to announce the move in Ohio, alongside Cordray, who previously served as the state's attorney general.

Senate Republicans voted en masse to block the pick in December, insisting the bureau needed structural changes before any nominee could be considered.

The recess appointment is drawing ire from Republicans; they have been keeping Congress in session with pro forma meetings during longer breaks expressly to block recess appointments. These brief meetings, held every few days, have been used by both parties since 2007, but White House lawyers believe the president can ignore these sessions as not legitimate — a perspective that has not been adopted by other modern presidents.

McConnell insisted the Senate was not in the recess and the president was thrashing established precedent.

"This recess appointment represents a sharp departure from a long-standing precedent that has limited the President to recess appointments only when the Senate is in a recess of 10 days or longer," he said. "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."

He added that when Senate Republicans announced they would block any selection until changes were made to the bureau, they were met by "silence" from the administration, leading them to block Cordray's selection when brought to the floor for a vote.

The CFPB was created as part of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law. It is charged with enforcing consumer protection laws involving financial institutions.

— Last updated at 11:17 a.m.