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. Keith

    He said that on this show, I didn't see that. Wait, maybe because it was the liberal partisan CNN who showed Axelrod's taped interview that allowed him to make unchallenged partisan comments before CNN cut away to "Breaking News" of the President being in Afganistan. But the rest of the hour was shot on speculation of the discussion since they didn 't have any real information. CNN should stop complaining about Fox if they are going to be just as partisan.

    March 28, 2010 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  2. Deej

    I should be used to it by now, but the GOP's double standard never ceases to amaze me!

    March 28, 2010 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  3. Michael

    Reagan made over 240 recess appointments, and little bush used that option over 170 times.

    It hardly seems noteworthy that President Obama is doing the same thing now, especially when the republicans in congress have openly stated that they intend to obstruct all democratic legislation and appointments.

    If they wanted President Obama to go it alone, they got their wish.

    What is newsworthy, is the fact that, in spite of the power held by the enormous anti-Obama media machine, he is still getting legislation passed that helps people.

    How refreshing it is to have a president that doesn't allow corporations and a loud, intellectually bankrupt minority to control the government.

    March 28, 2010 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  4. js007

    Republicans are yet again complaining about something they've routinely done, the hypocrisy is astounding. I am more concerned about the quality of the nominee, and so far Obama has chosen only the best and the brightest, so I don't think the GOP has a very good case to make. It's good to see Obama has finally given up on trying to be bi-partisan with the party of NO and act like a strong leader.

    March 28, 2010 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  5. GAK

    If Congress would do its job and either appoint or dismiss the president's picks, WE the people, would not have to listen to ALexander and the rest of the Republicans whine(some cheese please) about the appointments when they were out of session. I am soo sick of hearing the losing party act like spoiled children who are not getting their way. GROW UP!!! start acting like the mature adluts you portend to be!!!!!!! There is not a single Republican I would vote for Either locally or nationally. The last Republican worthy of my vote was retired Sen. John Warner,he was a man of stature and respect who could get votes from both sides..The rest of his party members could learn from him if they would bother to take the time..

    March 28, 2010 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  6. Richard in California

    The thing that is most irritating about Sen. Alexander's argument is that many Republicans have publicly expressed no opposition to many of President Obama's appointment selections, but are holding up the nominations strictly on political grounds. Unlike the Democrat's objections to President Bush's recess appointment of John Bolton to the UN, where Bolton's views on the UN were to destroy the institution, the Republicans are opposing the nominees purely for partisan reasons, not because they feel the nominee isn't qualified, and even approval-worthy.

    Republicans in the House and Senate have shown time and again that they are more interested in trying to hurt President Obama and the Democratic Party, than trying to move our great country forward.

    Republicans, you've shown you stink at leading, you clearly can't follow. So please, get out of the way.

    March 28, 2010 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  7. Dr. Randall Norris, Ph.D.

    Ram it down their throats! It should have happened six months ago. As part of the disaffected left wing of the Democratic party I had given up on Obama but it appears he finally either grew or found a set somewhere and has figured out how to govern. If he had done this six months ago we would have a public option instead of this meager start that we now have, but at least, for once, he stood up and fought. That's all we ever wanted. We didn't expect him to win all the time–just fight!

    March 28, 2010 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  8. Peggy in Texas

    Republicans know absolutely limits to their hypocrisy.

    March 28, 2010 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  9. buckwheat

    Texas is full of Republicans.

    March 28, 2010 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  10. Steve, Los Angeles

    Republicans are a disgrace for Americans' intelligence. I'm voting this November to register my disgust for them.

    March 28, 2010 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  11. Robert

    Oh please!!! The hypocrisy is mind boggling...

    Yes, the constitution provides for checks and balances.... it also provides for the president to make recess appointments..

    It's also a something that has been used by the Republicans time and time again...

    I get tired of this hypocrisy. IF they had never used it, then they might have a valid gripe. They have used it. Griping about it is hypocrisy.

    And I used to have some respect for Alexander...

    March 28, 2010 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  12. Dr. Randall Norris, Ph.D.

    For the person who said, "We the people of Texas will take the state back soon," guess what. You can have it! Quite obviously my relative from east Tennessee, Crockett and his friends, made the biggest mistake of their lives. We should have let the Mexicans keep the place and at least now it wouldn't be populated with right wing lunatics determined to kill everything that moves, either in or out of prison. From my point of view, Texas has been a real disappointment. Good luck on your own! Glad to see you go!

    March 28, 2010 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  13. Ed, Santa Fe, NM

    WHAT A JERK.... What it's called is OBSTRUCTIONISM when the GOP stalls appointments for a year....

    BUSH made almost 200 of these "in recess" appointments.... so SHUT UP.

    March 28, 2010 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  14. jojomcgee

    Hey kids, lets recess appoint Bill Ayers to Defense Secretary. And maybe Jeremiah Wright to Senate chaplain.

    March 28, 2010 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  15. A Thankfull Democratic support of our President

    Another minion from the "party of no" yet again demonstrating that hypocrisy is a Republican virtue.

    March 28, 2010 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  16. jojomcgee

    President George W. Bush never appointed a violent Marxist Leninist to public posts. The One is packing the government with anti-constitutionalist and Chavists thugs.

    March 28, 2010 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  17. buckwheat

    anybody know the address of the ACLU? What about the FCC?

    March 28, 2010 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  18. Joe

    I think Obama is beginning to realize that all he can count on from the Republi-can'ts is sabotage and obstruction when he tries to get something done followed by whining and accusations when he succeeds.
    It's time for him to just do what he needs to do and not worry about their reactions. He won the election, after all.

    March 28, 2010 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  19. jim

    I don't understand why Democrats think Obama is so great. He had a majority in both houses of Congress and still had to bribe his own party members to push this turkey through. Anybody can do that. Let's see how well he does pushing crap down our throats if he loses either house in November!

    March 28, 2010 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  20. Ken Gritz

    The republicans are still trying to shore up their weak claim that "all Americans" are angry at the Dems and Obama. This "angry Amarica" is a few tea bag freaks who have no table manners, and that's it. If obstructionism is all these guys got, then the GOP is DOA. Just read the comments below. 99% of the posters are in awe at the audacity of the Repubs and their incessant lack of any one good idea and the use of fear and hate to try and propell them forward. The only missing link now is if middle america is watching and paying attention to the desperate GOP and their failed (miserably) ideas of a corporate government for and by the rich. If Americans can pay a little attention and cut thru the fear, this country will come around nicely.

    March 28, 2010 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  21. Kathleen

    I watched as Lamar Alexander and FRIENDS sided with Corporations and His Republican buddies! NOTA ONE YES VOTE! That is obstruction and dispicable!!!!

    The Republicans use their scare tactics and scare the hell out of voters thruout this whole Health Care Process.

    God Bless the Democrats for the vote they cast. One that I just heard on "believe it or not" Fox News that I never watch. They asked Senator Sestak who is going to talk to his constituents today in Pennsylvania.
    Thank you Senator Sestak .Pennsylvania should be proud of you!
    Sestak is a Former 3 Star General and "has a child that has/had brain cancer. He is my hero of the Day. Thanks to Pennsylvania for listening to "the truth" about this Health Care Bill.

    I will be following "my hero" Sestack/Pennsylvania.

    And to the republicans, "Can Obama, Polosi, Reid do anything right?"
    ANYTHING? Fox news is horrible! By what they permit these liars to say.

    March 28, 2010 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  22. quieteye

    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. – Bill.

    Bill – evidently you must be emersed in that small government, "free" enterprise, deregulation, liberty & freedom (for K street & corporate dominance) republican mindset. Its not so much Bush the person, its the impacts after-affects of the trickle-down and out policies that left this nation in such mess that requires spending to clean up and restoration to some balance favoring the unincorporated masses.

    March 28, 2010 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  23. Babs

    Yes, every debate is an angry one. Every Republican in Congress is an angry, mean, useless idiot. I'd like to kick everyone of them out on their lazy butts and totally dump this so called two party system that we now have down the toilet. If we don't that's where the Republicans will have this country. They don't give a darn about anything.

    We've got a good man trying to clean up some of the biggest messes anyone has ever taken on as President. He hasn't a chance in hell to make any progress with the Republican babies. My biggest hope is that McCain, doesn't get another chance at bringing us further down. He's a senile old man and the biggest detrimint to what used to be a great Party.

    March 28, 2010 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  24. nicholas

    I just read the comment that Republicans are the Taliban. and although I wouldn't agree with that , I do believe they are the "enemy from within." Obama and the dems have done an incredible job of rebuilding Americas image in such a short period of time. They could do so much more if Republicans would put partisan politics aside. They need to develop some moral and governance back bone.

    March 28, 2010 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  25. Dan

    Two words...John Bolton

    March 28, 2010 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
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