Conservative Congressman Calls Obama Recess Appointments An “Outrage”

The reaction to President Obama's recent recess appointments provide us with yet another example of bipartisan hypocrisy.

New York Congressman Peter King isn’t very happy about President Obama’s recently announced recess appointments:

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), the incoming chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, has angrily denounced President Obama’s recess appointment of James Cole as deputy attorney general.

King called Cole’s appointment “absolutely shocking” and said it might be one of the worst appointments Obama will make during his presidency.

“I strongly oppose the recess appointment of James Cole to lead the national security team at the Department of Justice,” King said in a statement. “The appointment indicates that the Obama Administration continues to try to implement its dangerous policies of treating Islamic terrorism as a criminal matter.”


“After the American people, and the Democratic Congress, unequivocally rejected President Obama’s plans to close Guantanamo and transfer admitted 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed to the United States for trial in federal civilian court, I find it absolutely shocking that President Obama would appoint someone who has diminished the 9/11 terrorist attacks by comparing them to the drug trade and who believes that a civilian courtroom is the appropriate venue for 9/11 trials,” King continued.

“This may be one of the worst appointments by President Obama during his presidency,” King added, referring to Cole as a “left-wing ideologue who places terrorists in the same categories as drug peddlers.”

The Cole appointment is sure to be the one to cause the most controversy on the right, as Steven Taylor notes in his own post on the subject. However, these actions are fully authorized by the Constitution:

The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.

Since the Senate adjourned before the holidays, Obama was empowered to make these appointments, and these people will be able stay in their offices until the end of 2011, at which point they will have to be confirmed by the Senate that will be part of the 112th Congress.

And while conservatives seem to be reacting quite strongly to this action, and to the President’s previous recess appointments last April, which one conservative blogger called an example of “Obama’s Thug-ocracy,” the truth is that recess appointments are fairly common. President Eisenhower, for example, utilized recess appointments to appoint three Supreme Court Justices — Earl Warren, William Brennan, and Potter Stewart. More recently, President Reagan made 243 recess appointments over eight years, President Bush (41) made 77 recess appointments over his one term, and President Bush (43) made 170 recess appointments in his eight years. However the second President Bush’s ability to make recess appointments was severely curtailed after 2006 when Harry Reid the devised the strategy of never adjourning the Senate.

So, this is something that President’s have always done. Of course, someone should have told that to The New York Times when they wrote this in 2006:

Mr. Bush has used the recess appointment power to rescue egregiously bad selections that would never pass muster on grounds of experience and competence. (Remember last year’s recess appointment of the undiplomatic and Congressionally unacceptable John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations.) In other cases, he has merely sought to avoid logjams that the White House created for itself by refusing to accommodate reasonable Democratic requests for information, documents and consultation.

Or how about President Obama himself, then a Senator, when President Bush used a recess appointment to name John Bolton Ambassador to the United Nations:

“To some degree, he’s damaged goods,” said Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “I think that means we’ll have less credibility and, ironically, be less equipped to reform the United Nations in the way that it needs to be reformed.”

So much for intellectual consistency, I guess.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Terrorism, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Alex Knapp says:

    It’s not clear from the article linked if Obama was reacting to a recess appointment per se, or Bolton’s nomination in particular.

    Moreover, it’s not necessarily inconsistent to support recess appointments generally, but oppose specific appointments being filled on recess. For example, I’m generally okay with recess appointments, but I’d oppose on principle a recess appointment for Supreme Court Justice.

  2. Tano says:

    We should arrest Peter King and charge him with aiding and abetting terrorism – in Northern Ireland – a charge that he probably should be made to answer to. But lets not give him the chance – lets send him off to Gitmo and then see if he changes his tune.

  3. williams1977 says:

    King is a blowhard who likes to gin-up outrage. Outrage wankers on both sides know that their constituents know little of the Constitutional merits of recess appointments or much of any thing else that granular in politics.

    Not to call the voting public stupid, per se, just that most of ’em aren’t paying as much attention as we all are.

  4. steve says:

    Good post for the most part. You apparently think it is off limits to complain about recess appointments once made? I think it fine to criticize the choices made, but criticizing the process is hypocritical.


  5. Rather than accuse Peter King of being soft on drugs – Nancy Reagan should shush him! – perhaps I should suggest that the new Homeland Security Committee publicly read the Constitution before convening.

  6. wr says:

    First of all, recess appointment or not, King has no say over whom Obama chooses for this position. If he wants a chance to veto such appointments, let him run for the senate. I’m sure Chuck Schumer would be happy to take him on.

    Also, if King is so certain this is a bad choice, he might ask his colleagues in the Senate why they never allowed him to come up for a vote. Surely it would have redounded to their credit to hold an open debate on this man’s worthiness, and then to defeat the nomination, instead of keeping him hidden in darkness all these months…

  7. floyd says:

    Shouldn’t they have at least a playground monitor?
    Somebody could get hit by the “swing”!
    No worries though… It’s all just “sand on the slide” anyway.
    See you all at the bottom!

  8. just me says:

    I really don’t find this a big deal. Every time congress breaks the president in power makes appointments and the opposing party cries “foul!”

    It is pretty standard and I don’t see it changing anytime soon. I don’t get all that bothered because I mostly think part of winning the presidency is getting to make appointments and that congress should confirm them outside of very clear reasons not to like ethical issues. I don’t think having views that lean liberal or conservative should equate to being unsuitable for the office.

  9. G.A.Phillips says:

    ***We should arrest Peter King and charge him with aiding and abetting terrorism***lol, how about the democrats who undermined Iraq war while we are at it?

    I thought yourmama, er, Obama shut club GITMO down?

  10. Tlaloc says:

    Anyone want to take a guess as to whether terrorism or the drug trade have caused more american deaths?

    Actually, if you have to guess then you have an insanely inflated sense of the threat of terrorism and most likely watch fox news. It’s amazing that the simple concept of treating criminals as criminals is cause for outrage by the right. Almost as if they directly profitted by the perception of some vast terrifying boogeyman against which ignorance and reactionary jingoism were the only defense.


  11. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Guess the founders screwed up, in Dougs opinion, when they wrote in the confirmation process into the constitution huh? Bush did how many recess appointments? Obama does 6 over a holiday period when there is no pressing need for the offices to be filled during that particular time. Just and end run by the executive branch who would like to consolidate power on to itself. Dougie, if you like what Obama is trying to do, you must really admire what Chavez is doing. Is there anything this communist President does you disagree with? Most of the commenters here are lucky the house committee on unamerican activities is no more.

  12. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    In any case, any President who has to make recess appointments while holding an 18 seat advantage in the Senate should have some explaining to do. One must wonder was was it about these appointees Obama did not wished questioned? Not that the watermelons who post here have or are capable of that sort of curiosity. (Watermelon: green on the outside, red on the inside.)

  13. PJ says:

    “Bush did how many recess appointments?”

    Reading is fun, you should try it. Read what Doug wrote… If you had, then you would have known that Bush made 170 recess appointments during his two terms.

    Obama has made 28 during two years. If he keep this pace and is reelected, then he would have made 112.

    Reagan made 243, so he’s obviously the real Chavez…

  14. PJ says:

    And if Reid hadn’t blocked Bush from doing any more recess appointments in April 2007, his pace until then would indicate him doing 220 for his full term.

    Clinton on the other hand did 140 during his two terms, and Carter made 68 during his only term. I guess that makes both of them less Chavezesque than Reagan?

  15. An Interested Party says:

    “So much for intellectual consistency, I guess.”

    Indeed, I wonder if King was this outraged when the last president did the same thing…somehow, I doubt it…

    “In any case, any President who has to make recess appointments while holding an 18 seat advantage in the Senate should have some explaining to do.”

    Perhaps you should familiarize yourself with the filibuster…it’s in all the papers, you know…that is, if you can read them…

  16. IanY77 says:

    I think there’s only intellectual inconsistency if you can point out major shortcomings for any of these nominees. With Bolton, there was his near-psychotic hatred of the UN that was the issue. I have major issues with the UN myself, which is why no one will ever ask me to be an ambassador, but generally you don’t hire someone to a job where they hate the company with the white hot fury of a thousand suns. If any of these recess appointments share this shortcoming, then the intellectual inconsistency charge has merit. If the worst thing you can say is “s/he’s liberal”, then I think it’s weak tea at best.

  17. pylon says:

    IMO, a recess appointment where a guy has failed to pass muster after being subject to the normal process is bad.

    Recess appointments where the appointment request is ignored or delayed often for purely partisan political reasons are just fine with me.