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Thursday, January 5, 2012

When Is A Recess Appointment Not Really A Recess Appointment?

President Obama shakes hands with Richard Cordray at Shaker Heights High School, in Shaker Heights, Ohio, on Wednesday. (AP)

When is a recess appointment, not really a recess appointment? President Obama Wednesday appointed Richard Cordray as the head of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau after Obama’s lawyers declared the Senate to be in recess.

But Republicans are crying foul. They say the Senate was actually in a pro-forma session, for a whole 40 seconds. No business takes place during pro forma sessions, which have been used for the express purpose of preventing recess appointments.

Ed O’Keefe of the Washington Post writes that recess appointments are very common. Bill Clinton made 139 and George W. Bush made 171. At this point in his second term, Bush had made 61 appointments, compared to 32 for President Obama.

But Obama is the first President to make a recess appointment during a pro forma session. And business groups are now threatening legal actions to block the appointment.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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