During winter recess, Democrats keep Congress in session to thwart Bush
The tactic is a result of a 'press for presidential power,' some analysts say. But it's too early to tell whether the use of pro forma sessions will mean no more recess appointments by the president.
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But Democrats say that the highest stakes interim appointment that is preempted by these pro forma sessions involves a key position at the Justice Department. Senate Democrats are opposing the nomination of Steven Bradbury to head the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, on the grounds that Mr. Bradbury helped draft a controversial 2002 memo on torture.Skip to next paragraph
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In addition, four recess appointments at the Federal Election Commission expired last month – leaving the six-member board short of a quorum to operate. Democrats opposed the nomination of one interim appointee, Hans von Spakovsky, citing concerns over his commitment to voting rights for African-Americans. Democratic Sens. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and Barack Obama of Illinois have put a hold on the nomination, and Senate Republicans say that all four nominees must move together.
"It's not a good moment to have the FEC in limbo, just as the presidential election heats up," says Professor Zelizer. "You don't want to have it further stifled by Congress and the president not being able to function."
But the winter of discontent between Congress and the White House is thawing on at least one point: Aides on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue expect a quick fix to the fiscal year 2008 defense authorization bill that will allow Bush to sign it.
Last week, the president announced that he intended to veto the bill, citing provisions that would interfere with Iraq's reconstruction efforts.
The Armed Services committees are gearing up to fix the bill early in the new session of Congress. "There is recognition that this is an issue that does need to be fixed. We need to make sure that Iraq has the ability to continue to reconstruct and rebuild," says White House Deputy Press Secretary Scott Stanzel.