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.