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. Mike in Texas

    He is abiding by the rules. Just as Bush did. Politics is cyclical Senator. So please spare us the b.s.

    Keith in Austin.

    You are a joke. You are a disgrace to fellow Texans like me. Can you ever put up an intellectual post or can you only provide moronic drivel.

    March 28, 2010 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  2. me

    The President just saved the Republicans from saying "Hell No".

    March 28, 2010 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  3. John S

    Yet another representative in Congress who does not understand how Congress is designed to run under the Constitution. The filibuster is not a Constitutional tool. The check that the Senate provides is the up-or-down vote on nominees, not the obstruction of a vote by a Senate rule.

    March 28, 2010 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  4. Cromwell

    When the Repubs controlled Congress and the White House, they ramrodded their tax cuts for the rich through Congress and Bush put people in charge of the regulatory agencies who didn't enforce the law.
    The Repubs opened the gates and looked the other way as corporate bandits pillaged and plundered the country.

    Now, all of a sudden, the Repubs have discovered checks & balances. The Repubs have become born-again evanglelists for bi-partisanship.

    March 28, 2010 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  5. Blue

    Believe me, Alexandra is out of touch with TN and the rest of the nation. I'm from TN and he doesn't know what is going on and doesn't care.

    March 28, 2010 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  6. Mike in Texas

    Let the opposing views be heard and then vote. Give every senator an hour to spout their views and then move on. Congress doesn't filibuster to provide their views; congress filibusters to kill legislation. There lies the difference.

    March 28, 2010 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  7. Ya wanna buy a duck? Which way did 'e go George?

    This idiot is just another poster child repersentative of a left-over from the Jarge Bush years. These cater-to-the-wealthy-only freaks are a dying breed of can't-get-it-up sissy boy fruit cakes. His face is crooked too.

    March 28, 2010 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  8. K in CA

    Poorly worded sentence in my post below: " The Republicans actually thought the President would not make the obvious second move." My original intent was: "The Republicans knew the President would make the obvious second move."

    March 28, 2010 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  9. Palin Power

    Checks and Balances under Palin's successful administration is when everybody around the whole world does President's Palin's bidding for she is CHOSEN BY GOD HERSELF TO SAVE THE WORLD as the REAL AND TRUE MESSIAH and SAVIOR! Not Obambi!

    March 28, 2010 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  10. John

    Elections have consequences. The American people voted in Obama as President. As an American proud of our system of democracy I support our President's right to then appoint the people he feels best suited for the job. Its not his job to appoint people who would be acceptable across the political spectrum – and that would be impossible any way. Elections have consequences. So if the Republicans can't swallow President Obama's appointments (remember those middle-of-the road appointments 'W' made?) then continue to be obstructionists and don't bring their appointments to a vote. But don't cry when Pres. Obama does what Bush and Clinton also did: use the prefectly legal procedure of 'recess appointments'. Elections have consequences. Don't like the consequences? Prepare for the mid-term and 2012 elections. Just stop crying for God's sake and admire America's democracy at work. Pres. Obama won. Get over it already and go to work on behalf of ALL Americans.

    March 28, 2010 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  11. Gerry In Toronto

    Clearly, the republican playbook is simple obstructionism, they couldn't care less about what happens to the country.

    President Obama should simply appoint all the 70+ nominations currently being held up by the party of no and get on with other issues facing the USA.

    March 28, 2010 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  12. Ann

    To akc : "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."

    What about leading you to totalitarianism. Definition (Wikipedia:

    "Totalitarianism (or totalitarian rule) is a political system where the state, usually under the control of a single political organization, faction, or class domination, recognizes no limits to its authority and strives to regulate every aspect of public and private life wherever feasible. Totalitarianism is generally characterised by the coincidence of authoritarianism (i.e., where ordinary citizens have no significant share in state decision-making) and ideology (i.e., a pervasive scheme of values promulgated by institutional means to direct the most significant aspects of public and private life)."

    Good luck America!

    March 28, 2010 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  13. notfooledtx

    To summarize Mr. Alexander...


    The republicans have chosen their game, the President is doing his job, and has left the game-players in the dust. This country needs serious leadership right now, and Obama is providing it while the children pout about their failed strategies. The republicans can take their ball and go home – it doesn't matter – they haven't been a constructive force. The business of the government needs to continue, the republicans have chosen not to participate – it's time the president just steps over their bodies and does whats right.

    Well done Mr. President.

    March 28, 2010 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  14. Joe Stubben

    These are desperate moves by Republicans to shore up a loss. Obstructionism defended as "checks and balances". You now have Palin endorsing a beleaguered John McCain, the former Presidential candidate. What does that say about the current status of the Right? What have there "checks and balances" paragon's of virtue done lately for those who are unemployed, uninsured, and over their heads financially? What have they really accomplished for you?

    March 28, 2010 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  15. akc

    Ann – I'm glad you caught my point and expanded on it. Thank you.

    March 28, 2010 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  16. Bob (Illinois)

    Another GOP hypocrite.

    Recess appointments have been done by many presidents.

    March 28, 2010 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  17. mms55

    do people who spout this crap about not wanting our country to be like euro. countries actually think other people in other countries have no good ideas and only americans do?how ignorant and arrogant can you be! america does'nt have all the answers you know.just remember our ancestors came from countries all over the world you idiots!!

    March 28, 2010 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  18. Turn Texas Blue

    We,the sane people of Texas,will take back our state government soon.

    March 28, 2010 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  19. Republicans are Americas Taliban

    What Congress was set up for WAS Checks and Balances but the way the Repugliban abuse it it is nothing more than pure obstructionism pure and simple regardless of how the disgraceful Repugliban wish to candy coat it. They are wrong and they know they are wrong but they will not admit it because to do so would be admitting to thier illiterate masses of morons that they are exaclyu what they are, the party of Greedy Old Pigs, or the GOP

    March 28, 2010 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  20. Annie, Atlanta

    Mike in Texas, Keith in Austin is a joke because he thinks differently than you? He's a disgrace because he doesn't tow your line? Is this what we've come to? Hating those that don't think like you? What about common ground, or even civil debate? You don't have to hate on those who don't agree with you, and lash out with hate. We don't all think the same way. We have to figure out a way to deal with it that isn't so destructive, because we're destroying ourselves.

    I'd personally like to know why Republicans are fueling these flames of division. What is the end game. Has anyone else ever wondered that. Is it win at all costs? But what is the prize if we're destroyed in the process?

    March 28, 2010 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  21. rangle

    One must feel powerful when in the position to censor and build governments.

    March 28, 2010 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  22. cryUncle

    Will the American people buy these tired old goods from the GOP? I'm afraid the answer is YES. Most people don't even know who their congressional representative is, let alone the issues. A dumbed down electorate is a dangerous thing. The Republican playbook knows how to corral the sheep.

    March 28, 2010 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  23. James

    The party of "NO" has not done a darn thing to help the people of of the United States over the last 25 years, however they have helped themselves to the spoils of special interest groups. Why is it that we had jobs, a good economy and a balanced budget before they took office? The answer is in their quest for greed and power. They did this through their many trade agreements with Mexico and other impoverished countries. Now our manafacturing base is gone and will not return untill someone has the guts to end the agreements and PROTECT America first!!!

    March 28, 2010 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  24. Michael from Ventura

    It's called OBSTRUCTIONISM-that simple. Country First my rear-end! Pathetic!

    March 28, 2010 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  25. Cara

    Lamar, Lamar, Lamar. Who do you think you're fooling? Your failure to act is simply to stall President's agenda. You can fool the Tea Party, but the rest of us are on to you and the other Rethugs. Stall, deal, whine, moan, point fingers, drag your feet. That's the Republican game plan. Since the Rethugs have shown that they do not intend to cooperate, President Obama is under no obligation to include you in his plans for America. Remember, a MAJORITY voted for him so he is doing what he promised the MAJORITY.

    March 28, 2010 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
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