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The controversial recess appointments of President Barack Obama to two agencies were defended Thursday by the U.S. Justice Department. It also released a thorough legal analysis on why the appointments passed constitutional muster.
The legal opinion was issued after angry complaints from Senate Republicans who allege Obama is trampling on the Constitution and circumventing the Senate confirmation process when he appointed a new chief at the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and three members to the National Labor Relations Board.
Obama’s nomination of Richard Cordray to lead the consumer bureau was blocked by the Republicans. They said the newly established bureau is an example of too much government incursion on the financial industry. The bureau was established after the financial crisis of 2008 and Democrats contend that it is necessary to keep tabs on the industry.
The battle over appointments has a long history and has intensified in recent years as more nominees are being blocked. Senate Democrats first sought to utilize short breaks to prevent then President George W. Bush from making recess appointments. Now, Republicans are doing the same to Obama.
However, the Office of Legal Counsel of the Justice Department, which gives legal advice to the president and other government agencies, stated that Obama is within his constitutional mandate to make appointments when the Senate is in a brief recess.
The opinion stated, “We conclude that while Congress can prevent the president from making any recess appointments by remaining continuously in session and available to receive and act on nominations, it cannot do so by conducting pro forma sessions during a recess.”