Obama In ‘Unprecedented’ Power Grab


Congressional officials said President Obama used his recess appointment powers Wednesday to name a head for the controversial Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in a move Republican lawmakers said amounted to an unconstitutional power grab.

The president acted just a day after the Senate held a session — a move that breaks with at least three different precedents that said the Senate must be in recess for at least three days. Mr. Obama himself was part of two of those precedents, both during his own time in the Senate and again in 2010 when one of his administration’s top constitutional lawyers made the three-day argument to the Supreme Court.

The appointment in question is former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, whom Mr. Obama tapped to head the CFPB. The board was set up under the new Wall Street regulation bill Democrats powered through in 2010, just before losing their majority in the House.

Using sharp language, congressional Republicans said the Senate considers itself still in session for purposes of recess appointments, and said Mr. Obama’s move is a declaration of battle against Congress.

“Although the Senate is not in recess, President Obama, in an unprecedented move, has arrogantly circumvented the American people,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican.

GOP House Speaker John A. Boehner called the move “an extraordinary and entirely unprecedented power grab by President Obama that defies centuries of practice and the legal advice of his own Justice Department.”

“The precedent that would be set by this cavalier action would have a devastating effect on the checks and balances that are enshrined in our Constitution,” the Ohio Republican said in a statement.

The White House, though, argues Republican senators stonewalled the nominee so long that Mr. Obama had no choice but to circumvent them.

The president is expected to introduce Mr. Cordray during a trip to Ohio Wednesday, and the Associated Press Mr. Obama will call Senate Republicans’ ongoing blockade of his nomination “inexcusable.”

“I refuse to take ‘No’ for an answer. I’ve said before that I will continue to look for every opportunity to work with Congress to move this country forward. But when Congress refuses to act in a way that hurts our economy and puts people at risk, I have an obligation as president to do what I can without them,” he will say, according to prepared remarks.



  1. The objections of the leaders of the Republican caucuses of the Senate and House to the manner of President Obama’s appointment of Mr. Richard Cordray as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is cry-baby politics at its worst. If the appointment is invalid, there are surely procedures in place – probably a judicial process -that would prevent the appointment from becoming effective. There is nothing “unprecedented” about recess appointments – they have been going on for years and are explicitly written into law. (Was Marbury v. Madison a fight over a recess appointment?) If there was no proper recess when Mr. Cordray was appointed, and if his appointment is therefore invalid, an appropriate court proceeding can be commenced to prevent the implementation of the appointment. So let Mr. McConnell and/or Mr. Boehner go to court and make there case, or stop their whining.

    The Republicans have tried to kill the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau since before its creation in the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation, and the Republicans did succeed in blocking President Obama’s first choice for the head of the bureau – Elizabeth Warren, an Oklahoma native who is now a Harvard professor and, I believe, the likely Democratic candidate to run against Massachusetts’ US Senator Scott Brown, who is the Republican successor to Senator Ted Kennedy. If there are genuine flaws in the recess appointment of Mr. Cordray, Messrs. McConnell and Boehner can make their case – with or without whining – in court. I suspect that if there really were a valid objection to Mr. Cordray’s appointment, the Republicans would have skipped the whining and gone straight to court.

  2. nfgo3, you have no idea what you’re talking about. Nobody claims that recess appointments are unprecedented, but Obama’s claim that there is no recess is not only unprecedented, but he is on record holding the exact opposite when he was a senator. Regardless of whose interpretation is right, having participated in and supported the pro-forma sittings when he was a senator he ought to be estopped from taking the opposite position now. That’s a matter of fundamental fairness and legitimacy; according to his current position, how can he explain why Bush wasn’t allowed to make any recess appointments in his last two years?

  3. Oh, and nfgo3, you really have no idea at all about the constitution, or you’d know that there is no way for a senator to challenge this appointment, because no senator has standing. Court challenges would have to wait until this usurper does something that harms someone, and then that person would have to challenge his appointment.

  4. To Commenter No. 3 and 4: Read the second sentence and then tell me who does not know what he/she is talking about. And with respect to your Comment 4, assuming you are correct about the standing requirement, it would take about a day for Usurper Cordray to do something that would be actionable, under your theory of the judicial procedure for ousting the usurper, to permit a judicial challenge to President Obama’s appointment of Usurper Cordray. No, the reason for the whining and crying is because, like children who have been denied the extra piece of candy, they know they will not get it, and they are having their tantrum.

    Consider the source of this article: the Washington Times, and avowedly right-wing fact-bender. So intent are they on bending the facts that the article calls the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau “controversial.” Indeed, the Washington Times has practically added “controversial” to the name of the agency. Since when does “controversial” mean anything that Congressional Republicans voted against?

    And where did you get the picture of that creepy kid? And are you authorized to use it?

  5. No. 6: You really really have no idea what you are talking about. Can’t you proofread your posts before posting? Your comment appears to be directed to comments 4 and 5, not 3 and 4. And don’t blame that creepy kid in the picture for making it hard to see the numbers. A jerk like me can see them – why can’t you.