Reid backs Obama after using pro forma sessions to block Bush

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who previously held pro forma sessions to block recess appointments by President George W. Bush, said Wednesday he supported President Obama's decision to ignore those sessions to push through one of his key nominees.

"I support President Obama's decision," he said in a statement.

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The White House announced Wednesday that Obama planned to recess appoint Richard Cordray to be director of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). However, Republicans immediately cried foul about the move. They argue that because the holiday break has been broken up by brief pro forma sessions, the Senate is not in recess and the appointment is illegitimate.

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the novel move "arrogantly circumvented the American people."

However, the White House maintains that those sessions, typically held every three days and lasting a few seconds, are not legitimate and can be ignored for the purpose of making recess appointments. The administration cited lawyers that advised President George W. Bush when he was in office who argued that such brief sessions should be discounted.

On the other side of the argument at that time was Reid, who began holding pro forma sessions in 2007 to block Bush nominees.

"I had to keep the Senate in pro-forma session to block the Bradbury appointment. That necessarily meant no recess appointments could be made," he said on the Senate floor in 2008, as Democrats blocked a potential recess appointment of Steven Bradbury to be the assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel in the Bush administration. Bradbury is one of the attorneys cited by the Obama White House in justifying the Cordray move.

But Wednesday, Reid said he supported Obama's decision, arguing that Republicans were blocking the nomination in an attempt to re-legislate the Dodd-Frank financial reform law. A filibuster-proof group of GOP lawmakers announced before Cordray was even nominated that they would block any pick until structural changes were made to the bureau.

"Republicans have been trying to make an end run around the law by denying this watchdog a leader," Reid said. "Despite admitting that President Obama’s nominee, Richard Cordray, is qualified for the job, Republicans denied him an up-or-down vote in an effort to substantially weaken the agency."