Non-Recess Recess: Another Sign of Constitutional System Breaking Down
Having basic functioning government in the United States is becoming harder and harder. Our 223 year old Constitutional system seems ever less able to handle the rise of strong political parties, nor the desecration of the traditional norms in the Senate with its absurd rules on debate.
To run the massive apparatus which is the federal government, the President needs to appoint individuals to important roles. The Constitution requires the Senate’s advice and consent on these appointments. This worked fine until relatively recently, when the filibuster was used to turn the Senate into de facto super majority chamber. Now, everything not only takes 60 votes, but also absurdly requires 30 hours of floor time to be wasted as well.
The routine filibuster of nominees now allows a Senate minority to force policy on this country through selective destruction. Senate Republicans are using the filibuster to stop any nominee to lead the Consumer Finical Protection Bureau until and unless the entire program is changed, regardless of who the nominee is or how qualified he or she may be.
This hardball tactic shouldn’t be an issue because the Constitution does provide a relief valve from this filibustered empowered gridlock in the form of recess appointments. The threat of a recess appointment should make this kind of extreme ultimatum useless. Yet, recently the option of the recess appointment has been removed by the Congress through the practice of the non-recess recess. This was used by Senate Democrats in 2007 to handicap Bush and is used now by House Republicans. By holding “pro forma sessions” the House does not technically go into recess, thus preventing any recess appointments.
This allows a minority of Senate Republicans to use the filibuster to stop the President from getting qualified people in needed positions, even if they have the support of a majority of the Senate. The basic government process of the executive hiring people to run the bureaucracy is breaking down.
This is simply not how a legitimate government should function.
This nominations crisis is just a small part of the larger crisis of our system continuing to fray at the edges. The debt ceiling fight is another aspect of the broad crisis. One section of one part of the government shouldn’t be able to threaten to destroy the economy in order to get its way.
Sadly when faced with our entire Constitutional system being dragged into a state of permanent crisis,; few, if any, prominent elected officials are calling for the structural reforms needed to make our government work properly. Instead they are working on creating even more artificial problems so they can exploit them to advance a radical agenda opposed by the electorate. If left unchanged, this will not end well.