The 4th of July holiday is quickly approaching, and members of Congress will be heading home. The House has already shut down for the week.
There will not, however, be a congressional recess.
President Barack Obama won’t be able to make any recess appointments next week because GOP maneuvering has blocked the Senate from adjourning over the Fourth of July break.
Under the Constitution, each house of Congress must approve of the other adjourning for more than three days at a time. The House, controlled by Republicans, left town last week without approving an adjournment resolution for the Senate’s holiday recess next week. That means the Senate will have to convene a series of “pro forma” sessions, which are lightning-quick, gavel-in, gavel-out sessions so the chamber can say it’s technically not in adjournment.
With a backlog of nominations and fearful that Obama will name Elizabeth Warren to head a new consumer agency, Republicans are in no mood to give Obama an opportunity to make recess appointments, and Senate Republicans employed a similar maneuver during the Memorial Day break.
It wasn’t unusual for Senate Democrats to convene pro-forma sessions in the final two years of the Bush presidency, but Dems were in the majority at the time.
Also note, congressional Republicans are determined to prevent President Obama from being able to exercise this power for the indefinite future, regardless of the seriousness of the vacancies or the extent of the Senate GOP’s obstructionism.
The White House has been under a fair amount of pressure from the left lately to use the recess to make key appointments. It’s unclear whether the West Wing is inclined to use the president’s prerogative or not, but so long as these Republican tactics continue, it’s a moot point — Obama can’t make recess appointments if there’s no recess.
Update: Jonathan Bernstein argues that Dems may have some legal options, albeit unpredictable ones, for circumventing the GOP’s tactics. It’s worth checking out.