Obama jets to vacation with a huff and a jab

Jon Ward Contributor
Font Size:

President Obama wasn’t content to just go on vacation to Martha’s Vineyard Thursday. Instead, he left town with a huff and then a jab.

Just before leaving the White House to head north, Obama slammed Republican senators for what he said was “obstruction that defies common sense” of a bill to help spur lending by community banks to small businesses.

The bill has been subject to wrangling between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, and the Republican minority, with both sides accusing the other of not acting in good faith. Republicans have said Reid has not allowed them to offer all their amendments for a vote, while Reid’s office has said the GOP has continuously moved the goalposts of what they want simply to delay a vote.

But despite the president’s characterization of the Senate as still deadlocked due to Republican intransigence — “The Senate Republican leadership needs to stop its efforts to block it,” Obama said — Reid’s office said Thursday that Democrats and Republicans have a deal that will speed the bill to passage when the Senate reconvenes on Sept. 14.

After Obama landed in Martha’s Vineyard for a nearly two-week vacation (he returns Aug. 29), the White House announced four recess appointments: nominees that the president decided would not wait for Senate approval but would go straight to their posts without confirmation, where they’ll remain until coming back up for confirmation near the end of 2011.

Among the recess appointments was Maria del Carmen Aponte, who Obama put in place as ambassador to El Salvador. Aponte is a contentious figure who was once nominated by former President Bill Clinton for an ambassadorship to the Dominican Republic but withdrew after questionable past associations came to light.

Specifically, Aponte lived for eight years, beginning in 1986, with Cuban national Roberto Tamayo, who was suspected of being an asset for Cuban intelligence.

Republican senators had blocked Aponte’s appointment as they waited for a response to inquiries from the administration for more information about Aponte’s background. They sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. But a spokesman for Sen. Jim DeMint, the South Carolina Republican who spearheaded the questions about Aponte, said they got no response.

“The White House continued to deny senators information, despite numerous requests, and then recess appoints her to circumvent the advice and consent process.  So much for transparency and accountability,” said DeMint spokesman Wesley Denton.

Obama, however, said his actions were necessary because Republicans were unwilling to “stop playing politics with our highly qualified nominees, and fulfill their responsibilities of advice and consent.”

“I reserve the right to act within my authority to do what is best for the American people,” Obama said.

The three other recess appointments are as follows:

  • Winslow Sargeant to be chief counsel of advocacy for the Small Business Administration.
  • Richard Sorian to be assistant secretary for public affairs at the Health and Human Services Department.
  • Elisabeth Hagen to be undersecretary for food safety at the Agriculture Department.