Harry Reid Cancels Thanksgiving

Harry Reid Cancels Thanksgiving Photo Harry Reid is keeping the Senate in session over Thanksgiving to prevent recess appointments.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has decided to keep the chamber in session over the Thanksgiving break to block President Bush from making any unsavory recess appointments while Senators are out of town.

Unsavory?! That’s a rather odd choice of words here. Perhaps controversial would be more appropriate? Indeed, that’s the word Reid himself used.

In a statement inserted in the record Friday, the Majority Leader said he will hold the Senate in a series of pro forma or nonvoting sessions to prevent the controversial practice. In the statement, Reid argued that nominations need to get on track, and that Bush has not met the Democrats “halfway” in agreeing to Democratically backed nominees to “important commissions.”

“While an election year looms, significant progress can still be made on nominations,” Reid said. “I am committed to making that progress if the President will meet me halfway. But that progress can’t be made if the President seeks controversial recess appointments and fails to make Democratic appointments to important commissions.”

Senate sources said Reid made the decision after he was unable to strike a deal with White House officials that would have allowed swift consideration of several key Democratic picks for the executive branch. In his statement, Reid points to the Federal Communications Commission, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and Nuclear Regulatory Commission as examples where Democratic choices have not been moved along. “Up until recently, the President has generally discharged that obligation,” Reid said. “In the last several months, however, the administration has been stalling progress on Democratic appointments.”

One wonders why they’d do that, given how cooperative the Democrats have been in moving through Bush appointments . . . .

Given that both parties have been in permanent campaign mode for the last fifteen years or so, the traditional checks and balances process has gone from a system to force compromise to one used to bludgeon the other side and score points. That’s led to both branches using extraordinary tools like recess appointments and filibusters on a routine basis which, in turn, ratchets the pressure up another several notches.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Tano says:

    “the traditional checks and balances process has gone from a system to force compromise to one used to bludgeon the other side”

    Well they I guess we should applaud Sen. Reid’s actions, since they are cleary aimed at restoring the originally intended pressure to compromise.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Well they I guess we should applaud Sen. Reid’s actions, since they are cleary aimed at restoring the originally intended pressure to compromise.

    I don’t mind them in the least, really. Recess appointments were never meant to be used when the Congress was away for a few days; they were an emergency measure for an era when Congress seldom met.

    Still, I’d be a lot more laudatory about Reid’s action here if he weren’t using every trick at his proposal to stymie appointments and whatnot.

  3. gwb says:

    I confess my ignorance. The administration has stalled which Democratic appointments?

  4. Jim Flack says:

    I wonder what the Senate will do over the Christmas Holidays. Will they stay in session then to prevent any recess appointments?

  5. floyd says:

    James;
    Great article! A picture is worth a thousand words!
    [That of course is equal to a MILLION words from a politician !]