Political Animal


January 11, 2012 10:05 AM Department of self-defeating arguments

By Steve Benen

Congressional Republicans are still quite outraged by President Obama’s recess appointments last week, and plan to take up a resolution criticizing the move — just as soon as they return from recess.

Rep. Diane Black (Tenn.) and 71 other House Republicans introduced a nonbinding resolution today voicing concern over President Barack Obama’s recess appointment of four administration nominees last week.

“It’s astounding to me that the president is claiming these are recess appointments and within his authority, when Congress was not in fact in recess,” Black said. “These appointments are an affront to the Constitution. No matter how you look at this, it doesn’t pass the smell test. I hope the House considers my resolution as soon as we return to Washington so we can send a message to President Obama.” [emphasis added]

Jonathan Bernstein called this the “best self-refuting argument ever,” adding, “[W]e’re to believe that it’s outrageous for the president to call what’s happening now a recess, and the House intends to take it up as soon as they get back into town after recessing for the holiday.”

Exactly. The president decided lawmakers had left town for a congressional recess. Lawmakers effectively endorsed the line when they said the White House couldn’t submit a request for a debt-ceiling increase while they were on a congressional recess.

And now Diane Black and her cohorts want a resolution to complain that Obama thought they were on a recess, which they’ll vote on, just as soon as they get back from their recess.

I’d encourage Republicans to think this one through a little more, but I’m not sure they’d understand the problem even if they pondered the contradiction.

On a related note, Brian Beutler reports today that “the Obama administration is still operating with scores of vacancies, including an unexpected hole at the top of the Office of Management and Budget,” and unless the president is prepared to “dial his use of the recess appointment power up even further,” the vacancies will persist for the foreseeable future.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • Danp on January 11, 2012 10:13 AM:

    If the Republicans could get away with it, they would just declare recess through next Jan. After all, they neither expect to nor want to accomplish anything except to impede governing.

  • ghost rider on January 11, 2012 10:16 AM:

    do as I say, not as I do.............or is it do as I do, not as I say? golly, this GOPer stuff is hard!

  • stormskies on January 11, 2012 10:16 AM:

    Rep. Diane Black could not pass her own 'smell test' because instead of having a soul she only has a rancid abscess .......

  • SadOldVet on January 11, 2012 10:18 AM:

    President Obama should make extensive use of recess appointments right now!

    We can then hope that some lesser degree of insanity will prevail with the next group of senate and congress critters and his quality nominations can then get voted on!

  • Diane Rodriguez on January 11, 2012 10:18 AM:

    I find it heartening that the President's famous persistence is bearing fruit. He chose an especially important position to fill as well as one that would almost force the intransigent Republicans to respond. Not only did they respond, their feet are now stuck in their mouths. Much better result than a mass group of recess appointments.

  • c u n d gulag on January 11, 2012 10:21 AM:

    Hey, you can't hire a temp just 'cause I don't come in!

    You just wait until I get off my disability leave, I'll SHOW YA!!!

    Looks like we've got a new entry into "The Dumbest MFing MFer in Congress!" competition - Rep. Diane Black ("R"etard - Tenn.)

    That's some pretty stiff competition, Ma'am.
    You've got some catchin' up to do.
    Nice start, though!

  • rusty chainsaw on January 11, 2012 10:22 AM:

    I’m not sure they’d understand the problem even if they pondered the contradiction.

    That's okay, neither will the voters.

  • Josef K on January 11, 2012 10:22 AM:

    I’m not sure they’d understand the problem even if they pondered the contradiction.

    These are the same bunch who're claiming tax cuts pay for themselves. Logic and rationality are not in their mental toolkit.

    As for further recess appointments, damned right the President should make them. Hell, let him surpass Teddy Roosevelt's record and fill every vacancy he has. The GOP will moan and groan no matter what.

  • jcricket on January 11, 2012 10:25 AM:

    Diane Black and her ilk is the reason Congress has an approval rating only slightly above the approval rating for pedophiles.

    Democrats everywhere should advise her to drop her idea of pursuing this issue, so she and her ilk will be sure to take it up loudly with great zeal.

  • SYSPROG on January 11, 2012 10:26 AM:

    I'm TRYING to start this year in a more positive vein instead of just hatin' these hypocritical aholes so...Let's all run for CONGRESS. It's a gravy job. 3 days a week, health benefits, opportunity to make big money on inside information, pensions, and the requirement to lie on any subject. Oh and $165,000 per year as a 'base' salary. It's all good.

  • Gandalf on January 11, 2012 10:30 AM:

    The democrats need to make a big deal out of this because it will show to the american public just how much the repubs are doing to keep the govt from operating as efficiently as possible.

  • jjm on January 11, 2012 10:33 AM:

    More recess appointments, please, Mr. President! You won't get them any other way.

  • g on January 11, 2012 10:40 AM:


  • Epicurus on January 11, 2012 10:45 AM:

    Encouraging "...Republicans to think" is a fool's errand. It's like trying to teach a pig to sing; it won't work, and it just annoys the pig. Willard "I was born a poor country boy" is not going to fool the majority of this country's voters into believing his bullshit. Dog willing.

  • SW on January 11, 2012 10:46 AM:

    Chief Justice Roberts is already on record stating that the vacancies on the court are a clear a present danger to a functioning judiciary and that it is up to the President to use all of his powers as executive including recess appointments to fill those vacancies. I sincerely doubt that the shenanigans that the Republicans have been employing will receive a sympathetic hearing in the courts.

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on January 11, 2012 10:48 AM:

    If this were political sketch comedy, this development would be terribly funny. But sense real, living House Republicans are actually doing this in a real-life legislative body of an actual first-world nation, it's mildly disturbing. Those House Republics do have a natural affinity for irony, though. Kinda makes one wonder why the Democrats aren't as funny?

  • CambridgeChuck on January 11, 2012 11:37 AM:

    Moreover, further down in the linked Roll Call article she says, "What's more, the NLRB appointments were jammed through by the president before the Senate even had the chance to consider the appointees. Their names were only put forward on Dec. 15, a mere two days before the Senate recessed for the holiday.

    Sounds like an acknowledgement that the Senate is in recess , too!

  • Marko on January 11, 2012 11:41 AM:

    Yes, be sure to send a nice, sternly worded letter to the president and see what that accomplishes.

  • Rick Massimo on January 11, 2012 12:01 PM:

    "I’d encourage Republicans to think this one through a little more, but I’m not sure they’d understand the problem even if they pondered the contradiction."

    There's no contradiction. They were saying "F*ck you, n!%%er" when they said they were in recess, and they're saying "F*ck you, n!%%er" now.

  • schtick on January 11, 2012 2:05 PM:

    I think the number of appointments being held up by republicans should be posted every week and Obama should mention it in his weekly address. Then when the tealiban starts really crying, compare the appointments that are vacant to other presidents in their third year of the presidency.
    If the dimwit dems wanted to, they could walk all over the tealiban and actually get things done by getting the people in an uproar over the obstruction that is damaging our country by the tealiban, but the dems are on the same gravy train so they don't want to lose the lining they get in their pockets either. Sad.

  • navamske@mac.com on January 11, 2012 2:15 PM:

    "Jonathan Bernstein called this the 'best self-refuting argument ever'"

    It's even better than that. It's self-refudiating.

  • just bill on January 11, 2012 2:35 PM:

    i'm ashamed to admit that i only now realized that obama's mention of submitting a request to increase the debt limit was nothing more than a trial balloon to see if he could trick the republicans into declaring they were in recess. see? that's why i'm not the president.

  • navamske on January 11, 2012 2:46 PM:

    @Rick Massimo

    "Gabby, what do you see?"
    "Hey! The president is a ni--CLANG!"
    "What did he say?"
    "He said the president is near!"
    "No, goddamn it dad-blame-it! The president is a ni--CLANG!"

  • Jimo on January 11, 2012 4:07 PM:

    “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
    “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
    “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master that’s all.”

    Sure, Congress is allowed to set their own rules. But they're not allowed to create their own peculiar definition of the words of the English language. If Congress does not want to recess then I would suggest they stay in town working and not recess rather than declaratively stating they are not recessed while they are out of town and conducting no business.