Only one Senate Democrat supports Obama’s recess claim

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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Only one Senate Democrat, out of 51 asked, told The Daily Caller that President Barack Obama was correct when he claimed the Senate was in recess Jan. 3. That’s the day Obama announced that he had exercised his executive authority to fill four top posts during a Senate recess.

Their GOP counterparts slammed Obama for claiming the power to decide when the Senate is in recess.

Democratic Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware said he believed the Senate was in a recess when Obama made the controversial appointments, according to a statement from his office.

A spokesperson for South Dakota Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson said he “supports the appointments,” but wouldn’t answer whether Johnson thought the Senate was in recess.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid endorsed Obama’s decision as a way around GOP opposition, but pointedly refused to say whether he thought the Senate was in recess.

Spokespersons for independent Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut also did not respond to TheDC’s questions about whether they thought the Senate was in recess that day. Though they don’t belong to the Democratic Party officially, both Sanders and Lieberman caucus with Democrats in the Senate.

Obama claimed to have used his recess-appointment authority to appoint former Ohio attorney general Richard Cordray to oversee the banking sector, and three officials to serve on the National Labor Relations Board.

“I support President Obama’s decision to make sure that in these tough economic times, middle-class families in Nevada and across the country will have the advocate they deserve to fight on their behalf against the reckless practices that denied so many their economic security,” Reid said, without addressing Obama’s claim that the Senate was in recess.

“I support President Obama’s decision,” said Reid’s statement. “Republicans have been trying to make an end run around the law by denying this watchdog a leader … Republicans denied him an up-or-down vote in an effort to substantially weaken the agency.”

GOP legislators and constitutional lawyers say that because the White House doesn’t have the constitutional authority to decide when the Senate is in recess, Obama’s claimed appointments are invalid. (RELATED: Full coverage of Richard Cordray)

Because Republican House leaders refused to go on recess, constitutional language required the Democratic-controlled Senate to gavel itself into a short session every three days.

Prior to Obama’s decision, his administration and previous administrations had judged that a recess only occurs when the Senate is out of session for more than three days.

The announcement “arrogantly circumvented the American people,” said a statement from Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Massachusetts Republican Sen. Scott Brown also endorsed Obama’s decision. He’s in a tight race with liberal heroine Elizabeth Warren.

The NLRB nominations include Sharon Block, a deputy assistant secretary for congressional affairs inside Obama’s Department of Labor who once worked for the late Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy.

Obama also installed Richard Griffin, a lawyer for labor unions including the AFL-CIO and the International Union of Operating Engineers.

The third NLRB appointee, Terence F. Flynn, is a Republican lawyer specializing in the National Labor Relations Act, the law the agency is tasked with enforcing.

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