The latest episodes of the situation comedy called “Congress of the United States” have been less humorous than they have been pathetic. While Democrats seem unable to pass legislation in the Democrat-controlled Senate, Republicans are taking the House of Representatives on a surreal voyage the likes of which even Lewis Carroll could not have imagined.
In episode after episode this year the House has refused to approve the President’s appointees to government positions, forcing Mr. Obama to resort to the tried-and-true stratagem of using recess appointments. This is the back-door process whereby a president temporarily appoints a position while Congress is away on vacation spraying-on their tans. Chief executives from both parties have resorted to this for decades as Congress has become more intransigent in its insistence that doing nothing is the best way for it to do everything.
But this year House Speaker John Boehner has come-up with a counter-strategy: each day a skeleton crew of Representatives calls a “pro forma” session on the House floor, essentially calling Congress to order for about 30 seconds to declare no business will be done for the day, then gaveling the session closed. This means, technically, Congress is in session and there is no recess even though 99.9% of representatives aren’t even in Washington.
President Obama decided to test this pretense by making recess appointments to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the National Labor Relations Board. Republican representatives are now changing out of their Bermuda shorts and aloha shirts to get back into suits and ties and attack the President via local video feeds, calling his appointments unconstitutional and an abuse of power. And they may actually technically have the law on their side. It’s just unfortunate their own acts rob them of any credibility or ethical standing.
Mr. Boehner, in particular, has again shown Americans there is no low he will not stoop to in his campaign to negate the power of the Presidency as long as it is held by a black liberal. In his attempts to satisfy the extremist element in his party he has painted himself as an obstructionist of the first caliber, who will not even balk at destroying the U.S. economy and middle class. His rallying cry seems to be “whatever it takes”, regardless of consequences.
The Speaker has demonstrated his lack of governing ability in his stonewalling and unwillingness to compromise during last year’s budget and deficit negotiations, and is now perverting the rules of Congress to keep any attempt to repair the damage he has done from proceeding. It seems everything Mr. Boehner does is strictly legal and wholly inexcusable.
Once all the election dust settles, whether Barack Obama is reelected or not you can expect these legislative shenanigans to end-up with the Supreme Court in one way or another. Then we will see the spectacle of judicial light illuminating legislative ideological mania.