A recess appointment case study

A RECESS APPOINTMENT CASE STUDY…. Listening to the Sunday shows, it seems Senate Republicans are pretty angry that President Obama announced 15 recess appointments over the weekend. I tend to think their complaints are, at best, disingenuous, but I’d nevertheless like to hear GOP leaders defend the way Alan Bersin’s nomination was handled.

Bersin was appointed to serve as the new commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, after the Senate failed to act on his nomination. James Fallows took a closer look at Bersin’s background:

Bersin was an all-Ivy star football player at Harvard. Then he went to Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. Then he went to Yale Law School. Then he was a U.S. Attorney in California. Then he was head of a Justice Department unit overseeing US-Mexico border affairs. Then the head of the San Diego school system. Then the Secretary of Education for California, under Arnold Schwarzenegger. Recently he has been an Assistant Secretary at DHS. Last month the past three commissioners of CBP, including two from the GW Bush administration, wrote to Republican Senators asking them, please, to get Bersin into the job rather than leaving this very important agency leaderless.

Instead the Republicans placed various holds on Bersin and the others and would not bring him to a vote. Thus, good for Obama in saying, Enough.

Bersin was nominated for the post seven months ago. In the midst of Senate delays, three former Customs and Border Protection commissioners said the failure to confirm a new agency chief is a “national security concern.”

And yet, an up-or-down vote on Bersin’s nomination was nowhere in sight. It’s hardly surprising that the president got tired of waiting.

Matt Yglesias noted that this example “is a sign of an opposition political party gone mad.” Agreed. But I’m nevertheless curious to hear some of the same GOP voices whining about how “outrageous” the recess appointments are explain why the president shouldn’t have installed Bersin to the job. We’re talking about an overwhelmingly qualified nominee, who enjoyed bipartisan support, and whose nomination had been pending for more than seven months.

What would Republicans have Obama do? If GOP obstructionism has undermined the Senate’s ability to function, why should the country’s interests suffer when a legal, frequently-used alternative is available to the president?