Did the Congress Just Restore President Obama's Right to Name Recess Appointees?

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
June 28 2013 3:35 PM

Did the Congress Just Restore President Obama's Right to Name Recess Appointees?

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Ladies and gentlemen, Mitch has left the building. Or not. It really doesn't matter. This ain't a recess.

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

Remember the first rule of headlines. Ian Millhiser, who's typically trustworthy on these matters, claims that the Senate has left town in a way that frees up the president to make recess appointments. It would be excellent timing, if true, because he's about to run out of NLRB members. Millhiser:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) office tells ThinkProgress that the Senate is now adjourned until Monday, July 8, with no “pro forma” sessions planned during the coming week. This is significant because these pro forma sessions, sham sessions where a single senator briefly gavels the Senate into session for a few minutes, are a legally controversial method the Senate uses to cut off the president’s recess appointment power. Without these sham sessions, President Obama’s power to recess appoint several officials currently being filibustered by Senate Republicans likely just roared back to life.

But starting in 2011, John Boehner's House found an easy way to prevent recess appointments. He did not adjourn the House. Some poor schmuck would come in, from time to time, for a pro forma session there. Gavel in, gavel out, no recess. When I checked Millhiser's theory with House and Senate Republicans, both called it BS. Don Stewart, Mitch McConnell's spokesman, simply said "no" when I asked if we were entering recess. Too good to be true, Obama fans—unless the president is planning a real end run no one sees coming.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at daveweigel@gmail.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.