WASHINGTON (CN) – President Obama made 15 recess appointments to his administration on Saturday after “months of Republican obstruction,” according to the White House. “I simply cannot allow partisan politics to stand in the way of the basic functioning of government,” Obama said.
Obama used the power of recess appointment to fill top spots at federal agencies that in many cases have been vacant for months, largely due to delays attributed to Senate Republicans. Presidents use recess appointments to appoint senior federal officials while the Senate is in recess.
Last month, Republican Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama placed a “blanket hold” on more than 70 presidential nominees over two earmarked projects in his state. Obama’s 15 appointees have waited an average of seven months to be confirmed by the Senate.
Republicans predict that the president’s recess appointments will make it harder to garner bipartisan support for further legislation.
News of the appointments came after a tumultuous week in Washington that saw the historic signing of the health care reform bill.
The most controversial recess appointee is pro-union lawyer Craig Becker, who was nominated to the National Labor Relations Board. Becker formerly served as associate general counsel for the AFL-CIO. Forty-one Senate Republicans voiced strong opposition to Becker’s appointment in a letter to Obama last week.
“The United States Senate has the responsibility to approve or disapprove of my nominees,” Obama said in a statement. “But if, in the interest of scoring political points, Republicans in the Senate refuse to exercise that responsibility, I must act in the interest of the American people and exercise my authority to fill these positions on an interim basis,” he said.
“At a time of economic emergency, two top appointees to the Department of Treasury have been held up for nearly six months. I simply cannot allow partisan politics to stand in the way of the basic functioning of government,” Obama said.
The two Treasury appointees are Jeffrey Goldstein as head official of domestic finance and Michael Mundaca as assistant secretary for tax policy, positions the White House says are crucial to fixing the economy.
Obama is not the first to exercise the power of recess appointment. President George W. Bush had made 15 recess appointments at the same point in his presidency, “but he was not facing the same level of obstruction,” the White House stated. While Bush had five nominees pending on the floor at this point in his presidency, Obama has 77 nominees pending on the floor and 217 total nominees pending Senate approval. The White House called the partisan delays “unprecedented.”
According to White House Communications Director Jen Psaki, in a posting on the White House Web site, the delays are a result of “political posturing” and an “obstruction-at-all-costs mentality that we’ve been faced with since the President came into office.”
“When you attempt to prevent the government from working effectively because you didn’t get your way, you’re failing to live up to your responsibilities as a public servant,” Psaki wrote.
Once Obama makes the appointments, the nominees still have to be confirmed by a Senate vote.
Congress is in recess for the next two weeks.