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. I am Newt Limebaugh

    I am from TN and yes...I am ashamed Alexander is our Senator. He belongs to a long line of GOP hypocrits who saw nothing wrong in doing the same thing.

    By the way....when will the GOP wake up and do something to help this country instead of divide, hate, fear, and stall.

    Hypocrite..hypocrite....this guy has done for Tennessee...he is just a hack for the GOP special interests

    March 28, 2010 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  2. Aviate

    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

    No. But then, that's because like most other "facts" conservatives like to toss around, it's not true. Of the 14 states with double-digit unemployment rates, nine are so-called "right-to-work" states. These include such anti-union paradises as South Carolina (12.5%), Nevada (13.2%), Alabama (11.1%) and Mississippi (11.4%). Union-loving New York, meanwhile, clocks in at a mere 8.8%

    But I have noticed that most of the states that receive more in Federal funds than they pay in taxes are Red states. And I've noticed that states with the highest poverty rates, lowest education rates, highest rates of teenage pregnancy, highest divorce rates, and lowest per-capita incomes all tend to be Red states as well.

    So just like Lamar!, don't let reality get in the way of a good talking point.

    March 28, 2010 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  3. M J

    It's not "checks and balances" when your party is lying, Mr. Alexander.

    March 28, 2010 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  4. glen

    aquinox- read up on the Bush recess appointments...if the Republican Congress wants to be obstructionists then we expect the President to do what needs to be done to get this country going.

    Keith in Austin...that is and idiotic comment...and that goes for all the idiots advocating a civil war.

    Don't forget when Bush left office the economy was in a disastrous free-fall, the housing market had collapsed and everyone was announcing it was the Second Depression. The only ones who made money were those involved in the defense industry, KBR and Halliburton along with their biggest supporter Cheney.

    March 28, 2010 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  5. Bridget

    Ah, the old GOP tactic of blaming your opponent for something that you yourself are blatently doing. I love the GOP whining about something that they themselves supported for EIGHT years under Bush. And who is throwing fuel on the fire? CoughcoughGOPcoughcough.

    Listen, Sen. Alexander, checks and balances doesn't mean keeping the other branches from doing their jobs. There's a fine line between keeping other branches in check and keeping the government from functioning. You and your colleagues have crossed over the line and you just look like a bunch of crybabies on the playground. GROW UP and start doing what we elected you to do. This is not it.

    March 28, 2010 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  6. NVa Native

    Checks and balances takes a deliberative body. We don't have two parties that want to work – do thier job. The Repubs think they are btter served witheir radical base by saying no to everything. No to our President, NO to our Congress, NO to our economy, NO to our civil rights, NO to our Justice Deaprtment, NO, NO, NO, NO........
    So no our President doesn't need their permission to do his job. Our President is honor bound to do his best for ALL Americans – which is exactly what he is doing. So go ahead right wing wackos and your neo-con toadies – have a tantrum or too.
    You only expose yourselves for what you truely are "gravey sucking pigs" at the trough of corporate money pushing the facsist agenda.

    March 28, 2010 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  7. Pat Allen

    Cry me a river is all I have to say to the far right. You all got on board with your irreversible stance as dictated to you by the money megomaniac Limbaugh so now you can lie in the bed you made. You have no interest in working with this President so spare us your hue and cry over being left out of the legislative/executive process. It is falling on deaf ears out here in Middle America.

    March 28, 2010 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  8. Jenn, Philadelphia

    Again with the "Bush did it too" arguments from the liberal bloggers. If it was wrong then, it's wrong now. I don't expect the Congressmembers of the opposing party (right or left) to approve of a President's recess appointments. It's the nature of the politics. It just is funny to me how liberals complain about what Bush did and then when Obama does the same thing it's "shut up and get over it".

    March 28, 2010 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  9. Sean

    I hope people recognize that while yes, appointees going through an approval process is an example of checks and balances at work, the current Republican party is intentionally dragging their feet pretty much longer than has ever happened in political history on approving Obama's nominees. And of course, it's consistent with their overall, machiavellian strategy of trying to make Obama fail at all costs – even at the expense of what's best for our country and the citizens they've been elected to represent.

    If Republicans keep this up, I'm actually starting to wonder at what point impeachement for intentional failure to simply do the jobs they were hired to do becomes an option? I know that if I intentionally made achieving the goals of the company I work for as hard as possible to attain, I'd be fired in a heartbeat. Why should politicians be allowed to do it? They work for us, and we shouldn't be standing for it.

    March 28, 2010 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  10. mother in Pa

    Checks and Balances????They do not exist in our current government. The Obama administration and dems are running this country....into the ground and dividing it like no one else ever has. They chant their labels to incite those who have no understanding of law or business. They incite the poor by telling them they are entitled to whatever those of us who work hard have. Obama is a malignancy to this country and free business because he does NOT follow the constitutional laws. Republicans are business people/Dems are lawyers and free loaders. Democratic states are not are. Not hard to see the damage of the lawyers and unions. My state is one not prospering and loosing jobs and our governor keeps asking for more money. He has spent more than the state has taken in for his 7 years in office. Nope, no such thing as checks and balances when you are outnumbered by idiots.

    March 28, 2010 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  11. Gary

    Any article about an Obama decision can always be counted on to contain "Republicans complain" Do Republicans have any ideas or stand for anything? Nothing but a bunch of Anti-American, Obstructionist, LOOSERS!

    March 28, 2010 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  12. Tim

    Are none of you with a liberal mindset unbiased enough to see the danger of hos appointment to the NLRB. I'll respect your arguments on many issues, but this is so openly foolish. Stop bickering over Rs and Ds and think about the consequences of what our President and Congress ahs allowed to happen. So few of you are really patriots, just selfish and uneducated.

    March 28, 2010 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  13. hdjones

    According to a CRS Report for Congress hosted on, DUHbya made 171 recess appointments in his first 7 years, 105 of them to full-time positions. But, of course, the Party of No would NEVER "throw fuel on a fire" would they? No, they just fire bullets and bricks at windows.

    March 28, 2010 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  14. TeaBagged

    All check and no balance.

    March 28, 2010 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  15. Paul

    Ironic. Just 2-3 years ago the GOP performed the exact same type of recess appointments BUT that was OK.

    Now the shoe is on the other foot and they whine like babies. For the GOP – here's your chance!

    Start getting involved and being part of the solution, vice just saying "NO" to everything and being the source of the problem.

    March 28, 2010 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  16. Craig from LA

    Holding up 77 nominations that have cleared committee, some for over a year is patent obstructionism.

    The President appoints his team to implement his policies, unless the nominees have ethical issues, conflicts of interest or competency issues, they should be confirmed. This is none of that, it is the politics of national destruction. The right cannot accept our Black President and the progressive agenda and would rather bring down his presidency and harm the national welfare than compromise and collaborate for the common good.

    To those on the right, when you hate us on the left as you do now based on your rhetoric, more than external terrorists, it signals the imminent end of this great country. Nations fall from within, and mark my words, your words of hate and destructive behavior brings aid and comfort to our enemies. You will bring the whole house down upon us all. Hate not only destroys the object, but also the vessel that contains it. What a sad commentary.

    March 28, 2010 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  17. Chaos

    Republicans were for recess appointments before they were against it.

    March 28, 2010 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  18. SkiDoc

    Alexander is spot on. Rave on, oh Messiah, November is just around the corner. It IS time to take our country back!

    March 28, 2010 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  19. ThinkAgain

    Don't you just love the way the Republicans constantly threaten the President and our country?

    As with everything since President Obama's election, the Republicans are playing politics instead of serving the country.

    I am completely comfortable with these recess appointments; if the Republicans had wanted a say in the matter, then they should have let the nomination process proceed.

    The Republican leadership and those who follow it in lockstep are nothing more than sore losers, narcissistic and infantile. They cannot handle the fact that they lost and are out of power, and so are doing everything they can to try to make our President and our country fail – regardless of the consequences and the suffering that results.

    The Republican attitude is “my way or the highway.” If they were in preschool, they would have been put into time out a long time ago and made to stay there until they had learned to behave and get along with others.

    GOP = Party Before Country

    March 28, 2010 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  20. Ed

    Not surprising Lamar is full of baloney. The GOP plan is to be 100% divided and 180° to the opposition. My advice to Obama is to totally ignore the GOP and bi-partisanism, make all his appointments recess appointments (Bush always did and his party backed him) and push with your majority to get bills past, they would do the exact same thing and will if they get the majority in 2012.

    March 28, 2010 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  21. Anonymous

    @Ann & Akc: both of your points are well taken, the only problem is that the GOP & Alexander are liars. This situation has nothing to do with check and balances, only disrespect from a grand ole party that cannot accept the new direction of our country. I feel sorry for them all and I pray for them continually.

    March 28, 2010 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  22. CHIPS

    I'm setting here waiting for the President to speak to the troops, and I see the American people. All nationalities. The Tea Party need to go somewhere and set down. Fake American people.

    March 28, 2010 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  23. brown1222

    The checks and balances system allows for congress to approve or disapprove of appointees by voting yes or no. These people are not voting at all.

    March 28, 2010 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  24. larry in nh

    gotta go MY PRESIDENT is speaking

    March 28, 2010 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  25. thax Mr.axelrod for telling it the way it is

    Mr Alexander the only thing thats full of checks and balances is you and the repug party, you and your party have threw everything except the kitchen sink at the President to stop his agenda, if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem get out of his way and leave him alone.

    March 28, 2010 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
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