The House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on Feb. 15 to examine the legality of President Obama's Jan. 4 recess appointment of Richard Cordray as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, the committee chairman (pictured left), has raised concerns about the president's use of recess appointments to fill vacancies at the CFPB and the National Labor Relations Board, even though the Senate held pro forma sessions and had not declared a formal recess. President Obama dismissed the pro forma sessions as a ‘gimmick’ when making the recess appointments.
‘President Obama's recent appointments are unprecedented and possibly unconstitutional,’ said Smith in a statement released by the Judiciary Committee. ‘The president may make appointments while the Senate is in recess. However these appointments were made while the Senate was not – something no other president has attempted.
‘The Constitution gives the Senate the authority to determine the rules of its proceedings,’ Smith continued. ‘The president cannot unilaterally decide to rush through 'recess appointments' while the Senate is not in recess. Doing so threatens the oversight powers of the Senate and the separation of powers that is fundamental to our Constitution. And it sets a dangerous precedent for future administrations that want to avoid transparency and the constitutional role of the Senate to vote on certain nominations.’
Smith also accused the administration of continuing a ‘pattern of manipulating executive authority to avoid having to secure support from Congress. Pro forma sessions were never meant to be a window for the administration to appoint whomever it likes to powerful government positions. This power grab threatens the role of Congress and raises serious constitutional questions.’