The President traveled to Ohio to announce his recess appointment of Richard Cordray as the first director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Cordray’s appointment had received 53 approval votes in the Senate but not the 60 needed to avoid a Republican filibuster.
The Presidents appointment angered Republicans who had successfully blocked White House efforts to appoint a director since the CFPB was formed as part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. The bill was passed into law in July of 2010; but the CFPB has remained dormant because much of its enforcement capability lies in the authority granted the director.
Naturally the banking industry is less than enamored with any sort of regulation, and they have tasked their lackeys in the Republican Party to block the CFPB. Message heard loud and clear. Fearing that the President would use his authority to make a recess appointment if the Senate was not in session for three consecutive days; Senate Republicans went so far as to implement a little known rule to keep the Senate technically in “pro-forma” session…even when no business was actually being conducted.
Upon learning of Cordray’s appointment, Republicans took to the microphones in waves to denounce the President’s decision. Mitt Romney called the appointment “more Chicago style politics.” Speaker Boehner called it "an unprecedented power grab." Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said: “President Obama, in an unprecedented move, has arrogantly circumvented the American people by recess appointing Richard Cordray a director of the new CFPB.” Some Republicans even questioned the President’s constitutional authority to make recess appointments while others threatened legal action.
Let’s set the record straight. The President’s recess appointment is hardly unprecedented. Past Presidents have routinely made recess appointments. President Obama has made 28 recess appointments since taking office; an average of less than 10 appointments per year. To put that into perspective we checked the record of some of Obama’s predecessors and found that George W. Bush made 171 recess appointments during his two terms; an average of 21.3 per year. President Clinton made 139 appointments (17.4/year); and George H. W. Bush 73 appointments (18.3/year).
But the President who took the biggest advantage of his authority to make recess appointments is one of the most revered by Republicans…Ronald Reagan. Reagan made a whopping 243 recess appointments during his two terms; and average of 30.75/year.
This appointment was a brilliant, though late in coming, political move by the President. He traveled to Ohio, an important swing state, to appoint a wildly popular favorite son to head a critical agency formed to protect consumers against the predatory practices that ruined the economy. And should the Republicans be foolish enough too legally question the constitutionality of the appointment…the White House could only be so lucky. Imagine the firestorm in the press as the headlines scream: REPUBLICANS SUE TO BLOCK FORMATION OF CONSUMER PROTECTION AGENCY.
The Republicans tried once again to deprive the President of a victory. They placed ideology and politics ahead of what was good for the country. It took extra innings…but the President got the “W”.