March 28th, 2010
01:45 PM ET
10 years ago

Alexander: 'What it's called is checks and balances'

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander said Sunday that the president's plan for recess appointments has thrown 'fuel on the fire' at a time of already angry political debate in the country."]
Washington (CNN) – A leading Senate Republican said Sunday that his chamber’s failure thus far to act on a number of President’s Obama’s nominees was consistent with the constitutional scheme of government intended to keep the executive branch in check.

Obama announced plans Saturday to appoint 15 nominees while the Senate is in recess. Among the 15 is one especially controversial pick for the National Labor Relations Board, the federal agency that weighs in on those labor-management disputes governed by federal law.

Related: Obama to make recess appointments

Asked on CNN’s State of the Union about Democratic claims of Republican obstructionism in the Senate, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, said his party was helping to fulfill the Senate’s traditional role in a divided government.

“What it’s called is checks and balances,” said the chairman of the Senate Republican Conference. “And what the president has done here is throw fuel on the fire at a time when the civil – when the debate about politics is a very angry debate to begin with.”

Related: Anger over health care bill a sign of the times?

The Tennessee Republican noted that all 41 Republican senators had recently written to the president and asked that he not make a recess appointment of labor attorney Craig Becker. Many conservatives and business interests say Becker holds views about the right to unionize and the procedures for forming a union that they find objectionable.

Related: Appointment to labor board sparks opposition

Pointing to the GOP’s upset win in a Massachusetts special Senate election earlier this year, Alexander suggested that the White House and congressional Democrats could pay a political price for appointing Becker while the Senate is in recess.

“What this is going to do is cause the election of a lot more Republican Scott Browns in November who are determined to come in and provide some checks and balances in Washington to stop the overreaching of the government,” Alexander told CNN Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley. “We have a Senate to provide advice and consent. We have a constitutional responsibility to keep the president from ramming things through like they did the health care bill, like they did student loans over the weekend and like he’s doing with this labor appointee.”

Under the Constitution the president needs the “advice and consent” of the Senate to make high-level appointments to the administration and federal agencies. But the Constitution also allows the president to make appointments without input from the Senate when the Senate is in recess.

Updated: 12:32 p.m.

Follow Martina Stewart on Twitter: @MMStewartCNN

soundoff (243 Responses)
  1. Rush Limbaugh sponsors violence

    He looks like another Neocon turtlehead or dittohead.A puppet to be sure.

    March 28, 2010 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  2. kevin

    Republicans have short memories of the recess appointments President Bush made. Republicans forgot how Republicans rammed 2 wars down the throats of not only americans but the rest of the word too. I am constantly and continually amazed by the hysterical rants of the right wingers

    March 28, 2010 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  3. Scott

    Repeal and replace the Republican Party!
    Democrats Care!
    Republicans Don't!

    March 28, 2010 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  4. Benjamin

    These Republicans are taking advantage of the short-sightedness of their own party members with statements like this. The fact is, President Bush had made 15 recess appointments by this point in his presidency, but he was not facing the same level of obstruction. At this time in 2002, President Bush had only 5 nominees pending on the floor. By contrast, President Obama has 77 nominees currently pending on the floor, 58 of whom have been waiting for over two weeks and 44 of those have been waiting more than a month.

    March 28, 2010 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  5. Gpenn

    President Obama has a better chance of getting a compromise from a coin toss. Then he does from the Republicans. This is their strategy to win back the government. Stall and stop anything he does and then cry he didn't do anything during the campaigns. I'm glad to see he put his foot down.

    March 28, 2010 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  6. marcus (seattle)

    what a bunch of hypocrites..!!! throw fuel on the flame ?? bush did the exact same thing.. did alexander whine about bush making recess appointments ??? NO.. recess appointments are also part of the "checks and balances.." it allows the president to circumvent the petty partisanship of congress.. enjoy your recess, lamarr..

    March 28, 2010 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  7. Keith in Austin

    Change you can believe in! All of Bozo's power-grabbing, unconstitutinal actions will be explained in his memoirs, Mein Kamph II.

    March 28, 2010 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  8. Annie, Atlanta

    aquinox – so the President is abusing his power, but the Republicans in congress are not? A little one-sided there, aren't we? Do you have any idea what has been going on since the President was sworn in? The Republicans made a decision to just say no to EVERYTHING, so they could make gains during the mid-term elections coming up in November. It was Mitch McConnell's plan. Where have you been? I would suggest turning of the Fox News Channel every once in a while. They're poisoning the information well with lies, and making our fellow countrymen who follow them look really stupid. Honest.

    March 28, 2010 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  9. Realist

    Yes, Bush makes 286 recess appointments and it is business as usual. But if Scott Brown gets elected, President Obama can't make 15 appointments. Of course, the GOP believes that one upset victory negates a massive mandate that happened when the Democratic Party was elected into the White House and into both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

    That is sort of like saying that your team REALLY won the national championship because they scored a three-point shot. Never mind the rules and total score. If the Republicans hit their Scott Brown "three-point shot," then things like Votes and Laws and Rules don't count. Those darn fascist Constitution, Elections, Laws, and Rules.

    March 28, 2010 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  10. Larry

    It's not called checks and balances Alexander, it's called obstructionism.

    I'll be glad when the rest of you Republicans are out of office and you can crawl back into the holes you came out of.

    And guess what......people in this country are starting to like the new health care reform.

    March 28, 2010 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  11. Old White Virginia Female

    This gentleman needs to research the difference between "in check" and "obstructionism." What they are doing is obstructionism in failing to allow Obama to fill political appointed seats of government. And, children, when a Democrat is in power the National Labor Relations Board ALWAYS changes from supporting the company position at all costs to allowing the employees to have a voice at the table and even win a fight or two. I applaud Obama for going ahead and making the appointments in order to fill the seats that need to be filled.

    People, please remember these antics when midterm elections come up. This obstructionism and attempt to prevent government from working is not what is contemplated by our Founding Fathers, and those who participate in it need to be removed from office.

    March 28, 2010 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  12. Bill

    What some of you apparently don't get is that if a President is more mainstream, his/her picks wouldn't be that much opposed by the other party. But if a President is extreme one way or another (right or left), that person's picks WOULD be more opposed–significantly much more so–than a more reasonable, middle of the road person.

    THAT is why Obama's picks are being held up. Get it?

    March 28, 2010 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  13. Juan

    The KKNaziGOP Were especting that the president was going to spend his for years of none sence, so they can say that a black president once took office and didn't do anything, they knows that the president care about the all USA not just part of it and they are afraid because this will open others door politicly to others minority.

    March 28, 2010 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  14. Diane

    Refusing to do ANYTHING on your job for a year isn't checks and balances, it's cause for termination!

    March 28, 2010 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  15. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    To attempt to dismantle and obstruct is not check and balances no matter which way the Republicans try to spin it. There seems to be no integrity left in the Republican party, they continue lie and deny and then hide their hand.

    March 28, 2010 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  16. Steve Bivins

    No this is not called checks and balance it is called getting things done for this country, these Republican cry babies need to get to work or get out of the way this President has done more to move this country forward in 14 months than any President, yes I said any President

    March 28, 2010 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  17. Ruth

    This country has been run by RICH, OLD white men since it began. They have made all the rules for us to go by. They don't have to abide by them. They have made all the laws about taxes. The little man pays. The rich, old white man dosen't. There is something wrong with this. I believe Obama is trying to change that-if only we will give him a chance. This pains me to say but I have left my republican party because they have becone a party of RICH, OLD white men.

    March 28, 2010 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  18. btannerski

    I am so tired of the lies, the hypocrasy, the fear-mongering and the short-term memories. Clearly, people who listen to and buy the points mde by Republicans and their spokepersons are either purposefully ignornant or just plain slow.

    After what I've seen from the Republicans over the past 9 years, it is highly unlikely that I will ever again vote Republican in a national election.

    March 28, 2010 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  19. Bill

    I love all you whining Dems who are wringing your hands in angst, over continuing hatred for Bush, and especially drinking all the Dem/Obama/Pelosi propaganda kool-aid.

    Please do keep typing stuff like "throw the bums out!", etc. about Republicans! It's really very amusing, but it will be even more so in about 7 months when you find, much to your dismay, that a great number of Dems have lost in favor of Republicans. You'll be back on Ticker, of course, typing up "voter fraud!", etc...but the reality is that the American people just got tired of having too many Democrats in positions of power, mucking everything up. We'll take care of that in November. But please...DO keep typing! I'm sure it makes you feel really super! 🙂

    March 28, 2010 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  20. Matt

    Democrats had blocked 5 of Bush II's appointments by this point in his Presidency; so far Republicans have blocked 77 of Obama's. Quit your weak-ass sniveling, Alexander . . .

    March 28, 2010 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  21. Tom B

    Terry from West Texas said it best...

    March 28, 2010 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  22. Bill

    Anyone that thinks unions actually help make things more efficient does NOT understand how things work. Pick ANY industry and show me that unions made things better. And YES, I do agree that unions were necessary at one time, but it's no longer 1925, people.

    Auto industry? Yeah, they helped a bunch...directly led to the demise of the industry.

    Steel industry? Ditto.

    Education? Steady decline, thanks very much!

    Any positive examples? Nope. But under Obama and the Dems, we definitely need to bring this back, right?


    March 28, 2010 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  23. Jay

    Checks and balances is not the same as obstruct and delay! Republicans lost the last couple of elections so they dont get their way anymore. Stop acting like little kids and do something constructive – We're still paying your salaries!

    March 28, 2010 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  24. Chris

    The righties don't care about being hypocrites. They whine and cry about the President not working with them while opposing everything he is trying to do. Obama reached out his hand to the right last year and got the cold shoulder. Its time he ignores the noise from conservatives.

    March 28, 2010 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  25. adamjp

    Republican politicians are just beyond reason...and governance. How is Obama supposed to run his administration if he can't put people in to the necessary positions? This isn't congress' place...or the minority party's place to fill the executive branch's manpower. Obama has the right to fill the executive branch with who he can work with.

    March 28, 2010 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
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