No recess appointments for you

NO RECESS APPOINTMENTS FOR YOU…. Congress, as you’ve no doubt heard, is done until mid-November, with lawmakers headed to their home states and districts to campaign for the midterms. Any chance President Obama might use the opportunity to fill some key vacancies with recess appointments? Actually, no.

The two parties’ Senate leaders — Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) — quietly struck a deal this week. The Minority Leader agreed to let the Senate do its job and confirm 54 non-controversial administration nominees. None of the confirmations applied to judicial nominees — the court crisis continues — and there are still several dozen pending nominees whose lives are on hold for no reason other than GOP pettiness, but in his majestic graciousness, McConnell agreed to let 54 qualified officials, all of whom had been blocked for months, go to work. The rest may or may not get a vote during the lame-duck session.

And what did McConnell get in exchange? He had one demand: no recess appointments.

Democratic leaders have agreed to schedule pro-forma sessions of the Senate every week over the next six weeks, a move that will prevent Obama from making emergency appointments, according to Senate sources briefed on the talks.

Democrats agreed to the pro forma sessions to keep Republicans from sending Obama’s most controversial nominees back to him while lawmakers are out of town. Such a move would have forced the president to resubmit the nominees to the Senate and Democrats to start their confirmation processes (including hearings) all over again. […]

Under Senate rules, the chamber may only carry over pending nominees during an extended recess if senators agree by unanimous consent. Senators rarely invoke this rule, but McConnell threatened to object unless Democrats agreed to prevent Obama from making recess appointments. The deal saved several of Obama’s most controversial nominees from a reset.

Dems, in other words, get something out of this. Some ambassadorial, U.S. Attorney, and U.S. Marshall offices now have officials in place, and other key nominees are still alive.

But we’re still dealing with degrees of Republican abuse — the Senate GOP blocked votes on the confirmed nominees, is still blocking votes on many more nominees, and hatched a scheme to allow some progress on basic Senate procedure in exchange for blocking a legitimate presidential power. (Obama has one tool available to circumvent the broken Senate, so McConnell’s “deal” made sure it was taken away, at least through mid-November.)

Alex Pareene added, “This deal getting struck this time basically means that every future Senate minority leader will hold up every future president’s nominees until getting the same deal — which means that, in lieu of Senate rules reform, we’ve just seen the end of recess appointments.”