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President's labor recess appointments spark controversy

Craig Becker
Craig Becker
D. Hodges

The Constitution gives the President the power to fill administrative vacancies during a recess of the Senate and such appointees can serve without Senate confirmation until the end of the next Senate Session. President Obama recently made fifteen such recess appointments, including four in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and one National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) appointment. Two of these appointments have sparked further controversy in the already fueled Democrat and Republican sparring match.

Craig Becker, a former associate general counsel for the Service Employees International Union and the AFL-CIO was appointed to the NLRB. He is a strong advocate for card check legislation and was heavily favored by big labor groups. Forty-one Republican senators signed a letter urging Obama not to make the Becker appointment, arguing that it would be undemocratic and further stating that it would be a sign that he is giving into pressure from big labor groups.

Former Georgetown law professor, Chai Feldblum will serve as one of five EEOC Commissioners. An open lesbian, she drafted key portions of the pending bill Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) which would offer a number of anti-discrimination employment rights to the LGBT community. She has also been an advocate for workplace policies that protect those with disabilities and those affected by HIV/AIDS. Feldblum's extensive scholarship on gay marriage, sexual liberty and religion sparked controversy amongst some groups who believe that her views represent a strong departure from mainstream values.

With Congress focused on healthcare reform during the last session, the Senate pushed confirmations to the back burner. Many of the 15 appointees were approved by the Senate Committee but had not yet been voted on and confirmed by the full Senate. The recess appointees can serve through the next session, or the end of 2010, without Senate confirmation.


  • John Isaacson 4 years ago

    The "Recess Appointment" controversy has excited anger since the Constitution was ratified more than 200 years ago. The practical impact has always been to dilute the power of the United States Senate to totally block Presidential Appointments. This is an important part of the Checks and Balances built into our government. The President could operate the government totally on recess appointments if necessary, although it would surely be politically unpopular. Both parties use the Advice and Consent power to slow down, or prevent Presidential Appointments. Needless to say it irritates a sitting President, but is an important check on his powers. Opposing confirmation has prevented many bad appointments - including the last two TSA nominations which both turned out to have had improper conduct in prior relationships with the government.

    John Isaacson, Director