Sen. Vitter Promises Greater Obstructionism In Response To Cordray Recess Appointment
President Obama's decision to recess appoint Richard Cordray to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is bringing out the worst in congressional Republicans, including Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), who praised a filibuster of Cordray's nomination last December by claiming that director of the agency would be an "all-powerful czar."
Speaking on a conservative radio program yesterday, Vitter warned that the recess appointment of Cordray would jeopardize confirmation of the president's other nominees. Vitter then illustrated just why the confirmation process has become such a farce, suggesting that Republicans will confirm qualified and uncontroversial candidates only if the president promises not to go forward with staffing agencies anathema to many conservatives.
VITTER: Clearly, clearly, this is going to have an impact on other nominations. And unfortunately, this is going to gum up the works for other nominations, rather than focus on area where we have agreement, moving ahead, which we were prepared to do. Right before Christmas, there were a whole slew of nominations we're prepared to accept if we got assurances there would be no illegal recess appointments. ... And so again, he's shown a pattern. When there are limitations, constitutional or otherwise, that get in his way, his tendency is to just ignore them and forge ahead. 'Cause he's the emperor.
Under the Constitution, the Senate is to give advice and consent on the president's nominees to fill positions in the executive branch. The way that's supposed to work is that the president nominates someone for a position and the Senate, after evaluating the candidate's qualifications, votes on the nominee.
The situation Vitter hints at is one in which senators agree to confirm qualified candidates only if they get concessions from the administration that other positions — with equally qualified nominees who will never get an up or down vote for purely political reasons — aren't filled by recess appointment. That is not separation of powers; it's called horse trading. Beyond that, it's a concerted effort by Senate Republicans to block the president from faithfully executing the laws that Congress has passed.
Conservative defenders of this practice might argue that the senators from all parties have historically stalled nominations from going forward. But unlike filibusters during previous administrations, obstruction during the Obama administration has not only come at an unprecedented rate, but often for no other reason than to slow down the administration in the execution of its duties. In some cases, qualified judges who have strong bipartisan support and the endorsement of the legal community have had to wait months or even close to a year, only to be confirmed almost unanimously.