There’s a lot of searching around in the dusty nooks and crannies of the Constitution for methods Democrats can use to circumvent Republican obstruction. During the debt hostage situation, these included minting platinum trillion dollar coins and invoking the 14th amendment. One of the reasons to be cautious with those kinds of shenanigans is becoming clear with recess appointments:
The vast majority of freshman Republicans have told House GOP leaders they should block President Obama from making any future recess appointments.
In a letter sent to Republican leaders Thursday, a group of 77 freshman asked them to take any steps necessary to stifle the chance for recess appointments, including blocking any more recesses for the entirety of the 112th Congress.
The trick of not adjourning Congress to avoid recess appointments started with Democrats when Jim Webb drove into town over Christmas, 2007 to bring the Senate into “session” for a few seconds to thwart Bush’s recess appointments. Now the Republicans are using the same procedural trick for the remainder of Obama’s term so they can keep him from making almost any appointments at all.
Recent political history shows that whatever Democrats do sparingly (like filbustering appointees and blocking recess appointments), Republicans make standard practice. Procedural tools that were once used to block a couple of wingnut judges and to stop John Bolton from becoming
Secretary of State UN Ambassador are now being used for the vast majority of Obama appointees. So, a President who’s faced unprecedented obstruction and only made a few recess appointments is now forced to do things like begging Geithner to stick around.
The lesson here isn’t that Democrats shouldn’t fight hard, or that they should be reluctant to use the same tools that Republicans use. It’s that every discussion of baroque, circuitous work-arounds for obstructionism should consider what would happen if the same technique is used to maximum effect by Repubicans. Once you dust off some little-used piece of Constitutional equipment, it’s going to become a standard part of the Republican playbook. When that’s fully considered, my guess is that we’ll want to avoid those dodges and put more energy into reforming the filibuster and keeping a Senate majority.
Shall I Godwin this thread in the first comment? All right I will….
How long until the Tea Party thinks up the idea of just burning down the senate and the house to get around the few democratic hurdles left?
Bolton was the nominee for UN ambassador, but your information is an eye-opener. I am unclear if the house can do anything to hold or prevent recess appointments since they are done when the senate is out of session.
@Carolina Dave: You’re right – thanks.
There’s some procedural rule that says that when the House is in session, the Senate must be, too. That’s why the House being in session is relevant.
Does this imply that taking the economy hostage is an option for future congressional Democrats against a future Republican President?
@BudP: Yes, but why not just repeal the debt ceiling?
The Republic of Stupidity
There’s an old maxim in the martial arts about using weapons in a fight…
If you’re going to do it… use a weapon… just be ready to have it used on you if it gets taken away from you…
Then, there’s basic physics… for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction…
Republicans keep pulling this shite, to this degree, over and over again, sooner or later, the OTHER side will HAVE to rise up and beat their smarmy arses down…
Either that, or Newton had no idea what he was talking about…
It never ceases to amaze me… the way some folks can only learn the hard way…
Your post seems to assume that Democrats are the original, restrained users of all of these workarounds, which are then promptly abused to pieces by the GOP. I’m not sure we should naively believe that Republicans won’t use these tools even if we don’t; recall who came up with the threat of going “nuclear,” for just one example. That’s not an argument for our doing these things, by the way, just a suggestion that we be clear-eyed about actions vs. reactions and what today’s Republican caucus, larded with objectively insane people, is capable of doing. The past two weeks provide ample illustration of this, if we hadn’t had plenty before.
As for putting more energy into reforming (not abolishing) the filibuster, I remain totally disbelieving that, with the abundant previous evidence of the GOP’s bad faith in legislating, no reform was even discussed (other than a few random rumblings from individual senators) in advance of this Congress beginning in January. As far as I know, Reid continues to be adamantly opposed to filibuster reform, and we now must wait for January 2013 to have another shot at it. Very disheartening.
I agree with your conclusion that we need to do away with undemocratic obstacles like the filibuster but seriously WTF are you talking about with the rest? Do you honestly believe that republicans would have shown restraint if Dems had never blocked recess appointments or increased the use of the filibuster. It doesn’t matter whether dems respect norms or not, republicans will not.
Hey remember when republicans shamed dems into not using reconcilliation for health care reform yet republicans had no problem using it to gut revenues for tax cuts 8 years earlier? Or how deem and pass was the greatest assault on democracy until republicans got the house majority a few months later. There is no respect for procedural norms with republicans and unilaterally disarming is dumb. We should abolish obstacles when we have a chance and use them to the maximum ourselves when out of power. At worse we stop a ridiculous agenda and at best we get republicans to abolish the obstacles so we govern freely at some point after – I sure wish repubs exercised the nuclear option in 2005, don’t you?
This is like the argument that we can’t discuss flaws in our national security system because terrorists are listening. These guys are way ahead us in finding loopholes in the system. It’s what they do.
It’s going to become a standard part of their playbook whether Democrats use it or not. Republicans spend their time looking for any means to enact their agenda. Do you really believe president Perry would hesitate to use the 14th Amendment option or any other trick if Democrats threatened not to raise the debt ceiling? He’d get a lot of credit for doing it too.
Republicans know how to use power, even when they’re at a disadvantage. Democrats need to learn how to do it too. Because the odds are 50-50 that they’ll be at a huge disadvantage in 2013.
Except that the platinum coin seignorage option didn’t rely on obscure, tendentious interpretations of the constitution. The power behind that option was expressed directly in statute.
I’ll bet Majority leader McConnell wouldn’t be opposed to it. Though with the current crop of Democrats, he probably wouldn’t need to act on it.
So all the Dems need to get their recess appointments is one day when Congress isn’t in session. Have they forgotten High School? Our seniors could brainstorm 15 ways to make that happen in a 10 minute bull session.
Super Glued door locks
hazardous materials release
local traffic shutdown
Think like a kid who wants to skip a test and it all becomes easy.
The work-arounds being discussed now have never been used before. My point is that if you pull that shit out now, we’re just going to keep digging deeper into the rathole of procedural bullshit shenanigans rather than standing back, acknowledging brokenness, and focusing efforts on ways to fix it.
And, while filibustering is not new, putting Congress into session during Christmas was, and what did opening that can of worms get us?
I guess citing Paul Krugman is now verboten here, land of O-bots, because he’s correctly pointed out that Obama is weak and possibly deluded, but his model that the Republican Party as currently constituted is a revolutionary power is spot-on (“revolutionary power…a movement whose leaders do not accept the legitimacy of our current political system”).
Your point is wrong. The system cannot be fixed in the way you describe because the Republicans will refuse to.
If someone is kicking you repeatedly in the balls, do you step back and say, “come on, let’s fight fair”? No—you kick him back in the balls.
Many evolutionary biologists believe non-kin altruism, one of the foundations of human morality, likely evolved from iterated prisoner’s dilemmas. It’s pretty clear that when the other side repeatedly defects, you don’t have much choice but to defect also. You can claim otherwise, but in the absence of overwhelming power of the Democrats to force through the kind of reforms you’re alluding to, you’re wrong and, furthermore, deluded.
I am telling you that it doesn’t matter if we do it first or not at all, the republicans will find the loophole and use it. I laughed when some blog mentioned that Lieberman threatened the debt ceiling vote in 2010 and that gave the republicans the idea. Nope, Lieberman is an asshole but the republicans didn’t need him to realize the blackmail potential of the debt ceiling. Republicans may point to dem behavior as precedent for their own but it’s bullshit, with or without precedents the republicans do whatever it takes with procedure.
And this isn’t a bad thing necessarily. The filibuster was historically rarely used but when it was it stopped anti-lynching and civil rights laws for decades. A bad rule is a bad rule regardless if it is abused, the debt ceiling was dumb even before it became a hostage – the same with one senator issuing holds.
I disagree that we lose some energy towards reform by using these bad rules ourselves. Dems could have reformed or ended the filibuster in 2007, 2009 or 2011 and refused each time. We have failed even in the face of unprecedented obstruction from republicans. If we had been as obnoxious in the Senate minority, I think the republicans would have done something about it in 2003 – 2006 and we would be better off for it.
The other side needs to acknowledge the brokenness for change to happen cause we have three congresses of proof that dems won’t change the system themselves.
Declaring the debt ceiling unconstitutional would have been intended as a permanent measure. Once done, assuming it either passes muster with the courts or it doesn’t, and either way the issue is settled. I get the concern that it lends weight to the idea of the imperial presidency, but I don’t see how this move, in particular, cuts both ways.
This is not to say that it wouldn’t have other downsides, such as a protracted impeachment battle.
It would be, but the key to taking a hostage is that you have to be honestly willing to shoot the hostage if your demands aren’t met. If people think you’re bluffing they’ll wait you out.
Do you honestly think that Democrats are crazy enough to shoot the economy in the head? Now do you honestly think that this current crop of Republicans is crazy enough to shoot the economy in the head?
That’s why they “got away with it” – the choices they gave were “give us what we want OR we drag the world into Great Depression II” and they meant it. If you could elect Democrats who would do the same thing, they could also hold the economy hostage.
But good luck with that because I ain’t voting for nutters. That’s why I turned my back on the Republicans in the Clinton years.
@mistermix: Yes, I get your point; I’m just highly skeptical at this point that anything Democrats may do in this area will have a direct effect on what the GOP chooses to do. That doesn’t mean we should necessarily do it, but it probably does mean that “If we do A, they’ll respond with B” cannot be part of the rationale for not doing it.
I also agree on the value of standing back and fixing what’s broken for real. I don’t, however, have any idea of how to achieve that in this environment and with this cast of characters. Do you? I’m not trying to get in your face, but I’m not seeing any specifics in your post or the follow-up comments. So we’ve got a pretty good idea of what we shouldn’t do, zero idea of what we should do, and either way the GOP will do what it’s going to do.
It’s really discouraging. I’m going for intense therapy this weekend consisting of lots of baseball, sweet corn, music, hiking and sex.
@UofAZGrad: Well, perhaps I didn’t make the point as clearly as I should, but what’s in play today are things the executive can do to thwart legislative obstruction. Republicans can’t mint platinum coins, use 14th amendment remedies to the debt ceiling crisis or use appointment work-arounds because we have a Democratic prez. When a Republican is President again, they will do it with nary a peep from the media.
Perhaps they will do it anyway, but they haven’t yet, have they?
The false choice here is the suggestion that talking about platinum coins somehow makes a big difference in the amount of energy we spend on filibuster reform and preserving the Senate majority. I hardly think it makes a difference.
Okay, fair enough. I think that point was obscured when you followed it up with discussion of workarounds in the legislative branch.
I know this wouldn’t work with judges, but for the cabinet and other appointments couldn’t those people work the job and then the President could just do all the official work such as signing off on the regulations and other business stuff? The howls about czars could be answered with “Put these people up for votes, and they’ll no longer be czars.” And that would seem logical and stuff.
There has to be some way to pay professionals for their work, and not having to go through that confirmation process would soon be seen a the kind of problem that would lead to… a confirmation process. We could hope.
Others have already pointed out the flaw in this thinking, so I’m just going to pile on. This “lesson” assumes that any baroque, circuitous work-arounds would NOT be used by Republicans inevitably…that if Dems keep their hands out of the baroque, circuitous work-around cookie jar, that Republicans won’t notice the cookie jar to begin with.
I disagree with that premise. And after witnessing so many procedural abuses during the W years by both the Republican Administration and Republican members of Congress, I find it bemusing that someone would think that Republicans don’t spend their out-of-power years thinking up new ways to work around pesky rules.
Here, let me fix your logic here:
This is amazing. Your if-then premise there is just astounding. ‘If Dems restrain themselves, then rules won’t be further abused (by anyone) and then we can reform the system.’
I can’t believe a front pager has deluded himself this badly. Holy shit.
Mein Gott im Himmel. It’s as if the Bush Administration never happened in mistermix’s world. Whatever he’s on, I’d like to buy an ounce or two.
I think you have a valid point which has gotten buried by some sloppy thinking (which the other commentors have done a good job of ripping to shreds already, so I won’t pile on). The valid point you need to focus on is that we have a political problem which requires a political solution. The political problem is that the Republicans stand ready, willing and able to sabotage the govt by any and all means necessary and there are no limits, up to and including sedition, which they are bound to respect. The political solution is that Dems need to wake the electorate up to what is really going on here and make the GOP pay a price at the polls for their actions, actions which are undermining the foundations of democracy itself and if continued and escalated indefinitely will put us at risk of another civil war.
ETA: and the problem with using procedural tricks is that they aren’t a political solution. They just put the problem off for a little longer.
Is it or is it NOT OK for the Dems/Obama to do what they need to do to get things done? Lots of hypocrisy around these parts.
Paul in KY
@TheMightyTrowel: Excellent Godwinning. All they’ll have to do is find a convenient DFH scapegoat to pin the fire on & voila, Greater Redstatia will be just around the corner.
Article II, Section. 3:
So the House leadership wants to stay in pro-forma session, and presumably the current Senate leadership disagrees. Which means the President would have to rely upon the obscure, baroque maneuver known as an explicit constitutional power of the presidency. Good grief. And President Obama is supposed to let the Fed continue to flounder, etc, etc, rather than adopt this method to getting recess appointments in place around relentless Republican obstruction because … a Republican President and Republican Senate will be able to do the same to overcome a Democratic House’s attempt to block recess appointments? Since, also according to the Constitution, the House has fuck-all to do with Presidential appointments, I could actually accept that trade-off.
This is a bit of a misplaced debate.
The Founders weren’t idiots, or political naifs. THey understood how politics work, and understood perfectly well how dividing up power among 3 branches, one of which that is split in two, could result in a divided government, and that could result in gridlock.
Which is exactly the point.
If it was Alan Grayson and Dennis Kucinish blocking President Perry and Senate Majority Leader Sharon Angle from instituting the National Uterus Monitoring Bureau we would probably feel differently.
The only Constitutional solution is to elect more Congressmen who agree with the majority in the Senate and the President.
Bitch about the arcane procedural stuff you want, but as long as the Tea Party holds a majority in the House, they can be a monkeywrench in the gears of government to their hearts content. Which is how the Constitution intends for it to work.
What a bad fucking liar you are, noob!
Just because the Ball-Juicer drones don’t have memories that extend past their last hit off their crackpipes, it doesn’t mean you can just make up your own sanitized version of history where the Democrats are always the innocent child being bullied by those mean old Republicans (Robert Bork could not be reached for comment) (Nor could Miguel Estrada, who the Democrats expressly blocked because he was Hispanic).
The Democrats had an eight-year campaign against Bush’s judicial appointment, blocking and filibustering over 60 of them at the district and appellate levels.
This “we do it sparingly” fairyland fabrication is comical and insults what passes for the intelligence of your readers.
Ball-Juicer Maths News: “60 out of 435 Now a Majority!”
You are always breaking new ground at this Very Scientific Blog.
So when do Republican Obstructionists start dying mysteriously in a plane crash where nothing is found wrong on later inspection?
Two can steal playbooks.
Bender fails basic math, again.
The GOP holda majority in the House.
Currently, they’ré the Tea Party’s Bitch.
Just like Bender.
What part of Wingnut judges did Bender Miss?
A pity only the worst of the worst got blocked.
Every Bush appointee was suspect because their submitter was that bloody incompetent and corrupt.
says hiactually, he couldn’t recall remembering. You know what, just go here to see what I’m talking about.
My point is that the Worst President Ever lost whatever benefit of the doubt or prerogative he might have had when he decided to go full wingnut…which was pretty much from Day 1.
One side is operating in good faith, and the other side…isn’t. If you want to falsely equivocate that, Bender, I think there are
other blogsright wing echo chambers that might better suit you.
John Bolton was on RightieRadio this a.m. I didn’t listen. I’m sure he solved all the problems in the Middle East in ten minutes. He was more fun when he was chasing women down hallways in hotels. The women weren’t pleased at all with this activity.
The Republican Party is too broke to fix.
Yeah, that’s why there were those HUGE spending cuts in the debt-ceiling bill that the Tea Party voted for.
Oh, wait, I meant, NO spending cuts and increasing deficits ad infinitum in the debt-ceiling bill that the Tea Party voted against.
The GOP House is very bad at being a bitch, it would seem.
Regardless, any way you slice it, “the Tea Party holds a majority in the House” is mathematically retarded.
You’ve shown us your ignorance of basic maths above, but what part of “a couple” can you not grasp? Oh, you ignored that part so you could pretend this jackass front-pager wasn’t lying. So two lies make the truth with Pedophile Ball-Juicers!
Except for Estrada, who was deemed qualified but too Hispanic for the Democrats. Racists.
I’m not sure why you are replying like I have been responding to you. I haven’t. Although if you have a point, please make it.
I have no idea what in the world you are rambling about. Benefit of what doubt? On what issue could the President of the United States possibly have needed the benefit of some no-name’s doubt?
Yes, and whatever issue it is that you are pissing on about, you’d be stunned to find that half the people think you have your sides mixed up. Your statement is one of religious faith, not of fact.
No, thanks, I like to visit both. Whereas you like the safety of the HiveMind, and I think that’s best for you.
Sorry, you and Obama should both read Article II, Section 3
If the Senate and House are not adjourning at the same time, as appears to be the case now, the president can send them all home and do as many recess appointments as he sees fit.
I think that any time Congress is openly declaring that they are simply not going to approve any nominees is an “extraordinary occasion”.