John R. Bolton's nomination to be ambassador to the United Nations was the hottest issue in Congress a few months ago. But it has virtually evaporated this summer, eclipsed by speculation over a Supreme Court nominee and the fate of the president's top political adviser.
With neither the White House nor Senate Democrats showing any sign of yielding in their long-running dispute over documents related to Bolton's State Department work, speculation is rife that Bolton is prepared to accept a recess appointment good through the end of 2006, despite warnings from some GOP senators that it would weaken his influence and effectiveness.
Just because the story dropped off of the MSM's radar screen does not mean that it's gone away or that Bush has suddenly become more reasonable on the subject. Joe Gandelman points out the particulars.
This is yet another sign, though, of this White House's no-compromise style. There is no yielding once a firm position is taken (in other words, Democrats: Don't hold your breath that Karl Rove will resign, no matter what emerges or doesn't emerge).Or, as Steve Soto puts it, "Go ahead. Make my day."
I don't believe that anyone ever anticipated a sitting president acting in such a glaringly abusive fashion. This situation points out a hole in our federal legal system. Whether it's done through a constitutional amendment, or via federal legislation, checks need to be put on the Executive Branch's power of the recess appointment. In order to understand exactly why this reaches the level of "abuse" on the part of Bush, we can turn to FindLaw's Noah Leavitt.
The advice and consent clause in Article II, section 2 of the U.S. Constitution reads "[The President] shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint... " This language guarantees that the Senate can provide a check on Executive branch power, for it has the power to veto a President's choices
Sometimes, this process may not be practical, or an emergency may arise, necessitating a more rapid response. In the Framers' own time, Congress met for much shorter periods than now (it was in session less than half the year), and transportation to Washington D.C. was slow and laborious. In a more modern context, suppose an Executive branch official with security responsibilities is killed during a terrorist attack; the President may want to appoint an immediate, temporary replacement.
Fortunately, the Constitution provides for such contingencies by stating that "The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session."
So, we can see that the recess appointment still has some, very limited, usefulness and application in the modern world. Primarily, however, its function is more of a legislative appendix - no longer suited to our modern reality. In the time that those words were scribed, it could take weeks, if not months, to assemble the Congress in times of crisis. Taking a horse and wagon all the way up the East Coasts wasn't something you did overnight. Today, however, you can have congressional backsides in those seats on 24 hours notice maximum.
Yes.... if terrorists set off a huge bomb killing the head of Homeland Security or Intelligence, and Congress was in recess, I can see the President needing to move quickly and *possibly* make a recess appointment. But again - if it's that much of a national emergency and crisis, we could have Congress in session the same day if we absolutely had to.
Assuming he goes through with this outrage, (and he's done it before so there's no reason to suspect he'd be shy about doing it this time) Bush is using an obscure, archaic clause in our laws to do an end run around Congressional oversight. This firmly rises to the level of "abuse of power."
Oh, and the linked wapo article also points out yet another harbinger of things to come. What sort of man will we have as Ambassador to the U.N. if Bolton gets in through the back door? Check out the goods:
Two months ago, while his confirmation was in trouble, Bolton began efforts to double the office space reserved within the State Department for the ambassador to the United Nations, according to three senior department officials who were involved in handling the request.
Previous ambassadors have kept a small staff in Washington in a modest suite. Bolton told several colleagues he needs more space and a larger staff in Washington because, if confirmed, he intends to spend more time here than his predecessors did.
"Bolton isn't going to sit in New York while policy gets made in Washington," the administration source said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the source lacks authorization to discuss this on the record. But Bolton's efforts to obtain more space have encountered resistance. Two colleagues said Bolton's request was inappropriate because he had not been confirmed.
Yep. Just the sort of personality that fits in so well with the rest of BushCo. To hell with Congressional oversight or the will of the people, the Legislative branch, etc. Just rewrite the rules to suit your own needs.