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. Indy

    Repeal the Republicans !!!! CNN should not allow interviews with Republicans with out first having them hooked uo to a lie detector, but make sure the fire dept is near by as they would blow up every lie detector test they took. It is refreshing that everything the dems are doing is for the people and they are putting moral ahead of the party. Republicans have prooved that they are 100% party first. They have been focused one one thing and one thing only, and that is to bring America down along with the black President. When is the last time Republicans actually done some work for the people ? They have brought nothing but hardship and terror to Americans. I will LMAO if they run on the repeal platform because that will be the final nail in their coffin. I would also suggest if they run on Repeal that they should repeal their healthcare coverage paid for by the people until they are successful in stopping Americans from having health care insurance. If they are so determined that health care for America is bad they need to do the right thing and drop theirs until their repeal has concluded.

    March 28, 2010 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  2. rdepontb

    Lamarr....a failed politician. How bad is _that_? Ouch.

    March 28, 2010 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  3. NVBrat

    "Has anyone noticed the "closed shop" or union states are heavily democratic, have the worst economies and losing the most population to states which are coincidentally "right to work" or nonunion and recovering from economic morass. Those latter states coincidentally tilt republican.

    I guess that is also "Bush's fault" or Reagan or Nixon............

    The Weatherman"

    I live in Nevada, a "right to work" state with a predominantly Republican base run by a Republican governor, with THE worst foreclosure rates, an unemployment rate that exceeds the national average and a state budget that is in crisis. Oh, and we're losing our population – they're moving in droves to other states. Your facts are just WRONG.

    March 28, 2010 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  4. Independent One

    Check and balances is something the repubs know NOTHING about....It is ALLLLLLLLLLLL Politics with them

    March 28, 2010 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  5. Marge

    The can really spew the bull can't they...When bush was in office he appointed as many as he wanted. But do tell dont let President Obama appoint any body. Cause the republican after the horrific mess they have made of this country are messing them selves trying to convince people they know what is best. Oh yeah, hide under the rock they crawled out from, that would be the best thing they could do for this country.

    March 28, 2010 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  6. Grnnbareit

    GOP's "Hell No" Ain't gonna make the country work!

    Go back to your Slave States and shutup!

    March 28, 2010 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  7. keith

    Republican definition of Checks & Balance... OBSTRUCT

    March 28, 2010 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  8. Carlos

    Hey Weatherman, I live in florida, we have one of the WORST economies in the nation, probably the 2 or 3 poorest states, and guess what: we are heavily Republicans... no unions here....see how stupid is your comment? The economy problem is not fault of democrats or republicans, its fault of Wall Street greed...and oh, guess what else: Who is the party who loves Wall street? The republicans!.... so I guess the weather is going to be really bad for them this November... they keep saying "the american people", well we, the american people, love healthcare and we hate your obstructionist party...

    March 28, 2010 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  9. kim van scoy

    What it's called is a complete inability to govern. Lead, follow or get out of the way.

    March 28, 2010 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  10. realtips

    If it was not so serious, it would be comical. Senator Alexander, if you and your party thing that what you are doing to impede the progress of this country, with President Obama at the helm, puts you in a positive ligtht, then you are sadly mistaken. You all are like children having a tantrum in the sandbox, where you take your toys home in an effort to prevent anyone else from playing. The Republican party needs to put itself in check. Everything that the Republicans did years ago is now suddenly wrong??? There are tapes and archives that exist that t the Republicans want to ignore. And what ever happened to their values (like telling the truth)???

    March 28, 2010 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  11. lmc

    Checks and balances are important, but when one party refuses everything that a president wants to do, then it's childish and obstructionism. We had 8 years of a Republican government that brought us the Patriot Act, an unnecessary war, corruption in the mortgage business, and a massive recession from which few have yet recovered. During that time, Bush used the Congressional recesses many times–apparently it wasn't obstructionist then. Right now the Republicans would vote down world peace if the plan came from the Democratic side of the aisle. The Republicans were pretty bad under Newt Gingrich, but I think they have grown much worse. They like to talk about what the "people" want, but they don't get it. What most of us want is a government that works together for the good of everyone!

    March 28, 2010 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  12. This guy looks like Forrest Gump (the real one - no offense to you Tom Hanks)

    Is this guy for real? I'll bet he couldn't pick up chicks in school. He's a classic nerd. His glasses are either crooked or his face is.

    March 28, 2010 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  13. R

    So when W made over 170 recess appointments, I guess those were republican checks and balances.

    March 28, 2010 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  14. Chris

    It's "Checks and Balances" not "Obstructionism and blindly saying No to everything".

    Once again, the Republicans prove they are the Party of Hypocrisy. When Bush makes hundreds of recess appointments, the GOP says its shows his determination and leadership. When Obama makes 15 appointments, the Right starts howling about him abusing his position.

    March 28, 2010 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  15. zanny

    Hog wash!!! You all are like spoiled children who didn't get their way so now you are throwing temper tantrums. You do not give a hoot about the needs of this country. You are so entrenched in Karl Rove negative politics that you cannot see that you are only hurting your political future. Look at the idiot Republican that just stopped unemployment checks for millions of people for the next two weeks. I hope everyone of those pwople remembers this in November and votes the rest of you out of there. I have never seen such childish and unethical behavior!!! Shame on the whole lot of you and shame on the media for constantly covering and promoting this ignorant behavior.

    March 28, 2010 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  16. vic nashviile tn

    My senator has to do lot of home work

    Vanderbilt administration well come the health care reform

    More people will have health insurance

    More demand
    health business will grow fast
    more employments
    so economy will grow

    March 28, 2010 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  17. Indy

    Republicans lost their "checks and balances" reputation when they went to war in Iraq,and forgot to check the truth for weapons of mass destruction.Lamar, Iraq is where you afford to provide health care for non Americans with American tax payer dollars.

    March 28, 2010 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  18. Anonymous

    Ah Lamar, remember: Bush made 170–yes 170, check it–recess appointments. You are a case of do as I say, not as I do. Typical Republican.

    March 28, 2010 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  19. Rachel

    Ah Lamar, remember: Bush made 170–yes 170, check it–recess appointments. You are a case of do as I say, not as I do. Typical Republican.

    March 28, 2010 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  20. bts

    Do Republicans even listen to what comes out of their mouths anymore? Totally unreal !!!

    March 28, 2010 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  21. K in CA

    Amazing how emotional everyone can get over a chess game. It is strange how you never see that much emotion from people watching a real chess game.

    As the minority party, the Republicans have two possible chess moves with the confirmations. They can allow the confirmation vote to proceed and vote a unified "no" (if they have a unified "no") in order to openly state their objection, or they can obstruct the vote from coming to the floor. Both chess moves are within their constitutional rights. If the Republicans choose the second move, then the President has the chess move option of appointing the nominees.

    To assume that the Republicans did not know what would happen in response to their choosing the obstruction chess move is to claim that the Republicans don’t know how to play political chess. The Republicans knew perfectly well all along that the President would make the appointments. By choosing the obstruction chess move, the Republicans set the game in motion in the direction of the President making the appointments.

    What remains is for the Republicans to accept personal responsibility for their move and having set the game in motion in that direction, and for the President to accept personal responsibility for doing nothing more than making the obvious second move. It was really the Republicans who chose the path the game would take. The Republicans actually thought the President would not make the obvious second move.

    What I would really like to know is how each individual Republican would have voted had the Republican leadership allowed the voting to come to the floor. Were the Republicans a unified block willing to vote a unified “no” against all nominees? Did the Republican leadership want the voting obstructed because some of their members might have actually voted “yes”, and that would not have looked good for the Republican leadership? Does anybody have any quotes from Republicans about their willingness to vote “yes” on any nominee? Does anybody have a voting record of a Republican voting “yes” for a nominee in one of the committees?

    March 28, 2010 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  22. akc

    Just a note on a word being tossed around here. Obstructionism.
    Definition from Wikipedia:
    "Obstructionism or policy of obstruction denotes the deliberate interference with the progress of a legislation by various means such as filibustering or slow walking which may depend on the respective parliamentary procedures."
    I haven't seen lots of slow walking and filibustering. What I've seen is a difference of opinion on some very weighty issues. Regardless of your political perspective, the House of Representatives and the Congress were created to debate the issues. Debating generally indicates there are opposing views. If no opposing views are allowed to be heard, where does that lead us? That is a scary thing to think about if you take the time to consider it.

    March 28, 2010 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  23. frank in valparaiso indiana

    The GOP are like the people who never do any work and sit and gossip all day in cubicles. Eventually the adults just have to go in and do their work for them to keep the business going. And eventually they get fired.

    Nice short simple story with a moral for the GOP. When you say your entire purpose is to do nothing, well, why do we have you in office and why are you being paid? That goes for McCain also. In fact, most of these old farts should retire and collect Social Security and sit at the coffee shop complaining. Long as they tip well, who cares.

    March 28, 2010 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  24. Thank you Mr. President

    Forty-one Senators do not believe in unionization – hmmm, I guess that makes 59 who are in favor of unionization. Why would this stop the President from making a recess appointment when the majority are in favor? Maybe we can get the Employee Free Choice Act back on the agenda and let the workers of this country have a voice for a change!!

    March 28, 2010 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  25. mms55

    that fire is going to come back to burn the republicans.they think this is what the american people want and they could'nt be more wrong .they are the ones out of touch with the people.

    March 28, 2010 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
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