The Republican Party is crying power grab, but even with the recess appointment of Richard Cordray, Obama has made fewer recess appointments than Reagan, Clinton, and both Bushes.
According to the Congressional Research Service, “President William J. Clinton made 139 recess appointments, 95 to full-time positions. President George W. Bush made 171 recess appointments, of which 99 were to full-time positions. As of December 8, 2011, President Barack Obama had made 28 recess appointments, all to full-time positions.” Before Clinton, George H.W. Bush made 77 recess appointments, and Ronald Reagan made 240.
Ronald Reagan averaged more recess appointments in a year (30) than Barack Obama has made during his entire presidency. Yet, Republicans have deemed Obama’s most recent appoint of Richard Cordray to head the CFPB an unconstitutional power grab. Republicans are threatening to take the matter to court, but they are unlikely to be successful.
In 2004, Democrats unsuccessfully tried to challenge the constitutionality of George W. Bush’s recess appointment of Judge William Pryor. The GOP congressional leadership is reportedly outraged that Obama would use a recess appointment to get around there obstruction, but interestingly many of these same Republicans who are outraged today were defending the constitutionality of George W. Bush’s recess appointment of Pryor. (Democrats hold the same shifting positions on recess appointments, which indicate that this is more about political bluster than constitutionality).
The Republican meme that Obama’s appointment of Cordray is an unprecedented executive power grab is completely false. All presidents dating back to George Washington have used recess appointments, so there is nothing unusual about what Obama has done. In the face of another defeat, Republicans are foolishly retreating back to their narrative that Obama is a political strongman who does not respect the constitution.
This story plays well with the right wing base of the GOP, but the rest of the country shouldn’t buy it. What most of the nation has witnesses over the first two and half years of Obama’s term has been a president who has been very cautious with the use of his executive powers. Much to the dismay of many on the left, Obama had tried to govern as consensus builder instead of a Bush/Nixon imperial president. After the Republicans repeatedly demonstrated that have no interest in consensus, Obama started to exercise his constitutionally granted executive powers.
This is another public relations battle that the GOP is destined to lose. By challenging Obama’s recess appointment of someone to head the bureau that will protect the American people from the same shoddy financial products that helped to crash the American economy, Republicans are reinforcing Obama’s message that they are the party of only the rich. Obama has managed to use this appointment to further his message that he is the champion of the middle class.
With their only strategy to stop Obama going up in smoke, Republicans are left with nothing but power grab fairy tales and empty talking points that distort and deny their own party’s political history.