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. cspurgeon

    More party line talk from the haters. None of them speak for themselves even those who are deemed somewhat reasonable. The media is the real turn up the burner by reporting on all this crap.

    March 28, 2010 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  2. JLE

    Reagan made more than 200 recess appointments. George W. Bush almost 200. George H.W. Bush made close to 100 in one term.

    But if Obama does the exact same thing, he's "enflaming" the Republicans, or "adding fuel to the fire," or some nonsense like that.

    The Republican set the fire ablaze and have been pouring gasoline on it for months. Hell, for years. So spare me the whining and the lying. We're not buying it.

    March 28, 2010 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |

    President Obama SHOULD have gone ahead and appointed ALL the blocked nominees ... more than a year into his presidency, it's still not fully staffed, including many critical positions. Republicans care about two things and two things only: money, and their own re-election. Democrats, by contrast, actually care about PEOPLE, as the debate about health care reform so richly revealed.

    March 28, 2010 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  4. Sammy

    @akc and Ann:

    Good thing you guys are looking up Wikipedia for definitions:

    8 years of Bush, and the Iraq war were nothing but Totalitarianism, Authoritarianism, Obstructionism and Intereference with citizens' liberties and freedom...

    And I don't have to go to Wikipedia to know that thats what the 8 years of Bush were...

    God Bless America!

    March 28, 2010 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  5. MsDp

    @Ann & Akc: both of your points are well taken, but this has nothing to do with check and balances. GOP & Alexander's are liars. Their only reason for the delays surrounding the appointments are merely to disrespect this new President because of their inability to accept the change and new directions of our country-which is why the majority of us elected our new President. Truth will stand; GOP are liars and cowards who are hiding behind the teaparty.

    March 28, 2010 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  6. CNo

    If the Senate fulfilled its duty to vote up or down the appointees THAT would be checks and balances.

    Refusing to vote up or down the appointees after they have subcommittee approval? Not so much.

    The Republican Party regularly used and abused recess appointments? Only when the outcome is disliked it the process illegitimate?


    March 28, 2010 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  7. Crazy Harry

    What more can I add. Grand Obstructionist Party hard at work trying to distort the truth.

    Will they ever grow up?

    March 28, 2010 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  8. Tori in Texas

    Bush – 286 recess appointments. Dems don't like it but accept it because it's been done so many times by past Presidnts.

    Obama – 15 recess appointments. Repubs hate it and propogandizes Obama is the only President ever to do anything like this. He's evil and trying to to turn America into a marxist, or communist, or stalinist, or socialist country.

    In other words – It's OK If You're A Republican.

    I so cannot wait until November. Pass the popcorn!

    March 28, 2010 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  9. Gloria

    McCain is a hypocrite. When Bush did the exact same thing, McCain voiced his support for the recess appointment of John Bolton. He thought that it was the president's perogative to do so....while PRESIDENT OBAMA HAS EXERCISED HIS PEROGATIVE TO DO SO!!!

    March 28, 2010 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  10. MikeH

    Terry from West Texas:

    RIGHT ON!!!

    You give me re-assurance there are still sane people living in Texas.

    March 28, 2010 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  11. Bill

    It's called petty reprisal. They know it, I know it and some of you think you get it but you don't. I'm not better, I just get it. The party of sour grapes and hard cheese.

    March 28, 2010 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  12. Vince

    Have the Republicans forgotten that under their leadership President Bush used recess appointments 150 times.

    March 28, 2010 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  13. LetsBeCivil

    Can someone explain to me why it is perfectly fine if the Republicans do something but is totally wrong, unconstitutional, poisons the political waters, etc if the Democrats do the same thing?

    March 28, 2010 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  14. DW

    I find the outcry against Obama, Pelosi, and Reid amusing. George Bush involved the U.S. in a war under false pretenses, which is bankrupting us to the tune of a little less than $100 billion per year. Bush turned the world against the U.S. and turned a budding friend and partner in Russia, back into a polar standoff. Bush took advantage of the fear after 9/11 to ram the Patriot Act through Congress, thus violating many of our constitutional rights such as those protecting us against unlawful searches and seizures and due process. Under Bush's watch, universities drastically raised tuition to make up for less money for education, so that now many of America's youth can't afford to attend college. Bush grew the national debt more than any other president in history, prior to Obama; and do keep in mind that Bush inherited a budget surplus and a robust economy, while Obama begot two wars, a huge deficit, and a borderline economic depression. And let's not forget that the stimulus package was first requested by Bush to revive an economic system teetering on the edge of collapse.

    It's odd that the Tea Party was merely a party of two less than two years ago, but are so vocal now a little over a year into Obama's presidency. I tend to vote independent and despise both parties, but especially the Republicans. If it wasn't so serious, I'd find it humorous that many people are willing to spite themselves to support a party or oppose someone of another race. I'm sure the many disagree with that characterization, but you'd be hard pressed to explain your silence from 2000-2008.

    March 28, 2010 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  15. Randy

    Bowbama is just continuing his 'behind closed doors' politics, because he does not want the light of day to shine on his odious deals. This buffoon is destroying America, and his lemmings are rushing blindly for the cliff's edge.

    March 28, 2010 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  16. klondike

    It was perfectly fine when the red states ran this country into the ground, lied us into a useless war, let Bin Laden escape, destabilized the financial system, and gorged themselves at the expense of the taxpayer, but now that they're in the minority, all I hear is whining...

    March 28, 2010 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  17. S Callahan

    I smell ugly on this....pray tell this is not the ultimate power grab. America is watching..closely.

    March 28, 2010 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  18. gw

    It's not checks and balances when the entire opposition party tries to bring the government to a grinding halt. Obstructionism and sabotage were not considered as tools of checks and balances.

    March 28, 2010 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  19. ThinkAgain

    According to the Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, updated November 3, 2008:

    "As of October 31, 2008, President Bush had made 171 recess appointments. President William J. Clinton, in comparison, made a total of 139 recess appointments during the course of his presidency.

    Of President Bush’s 171 recess appointments, 99 were to full-time positions, and the remaining 72 were to part-time positions."

    President Obama made 15 recess appointments.

    Get over it, Republicans!

    March 28, 2010 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  20. Albo58

    If this President would stop nominating candidates with checkered records of far left ideals, corruption, not paying taxes, etc, perhaps he could get some of his choices confirmed!

    March 28, 2010 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  21. gerry

    No, Sen. Alexander, it is the role of the Senate to Advise and Consent to the nominees of the Executive Branch. IF there is sufficient opposition to defeat them, it should occur in committee or open session. Holding up appointments is not "keeping the Executive Branch in check," but is frankly obstructing the business fo government.

    March 28, 2010 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  22. Jimmy

    Why do Republicans hate America so much?

    March 28, 2010 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  23. observer

    Leave it to the GOP to argue that sitting on their hands doing nothing is the fulfillment of their legitimate role in government. Really?

    March 28, 2010 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  24. Richard-Arkansas

    "Advise and consent" is not "block and delay" which is what the Republican'ts seem to be doing. If they meet the qualifications for the job than there are no reasons, except just being a party of "blocking everything", for the approvals to be delayed this long. Hey Republican'ts, in case you don't remember, you did loose the election.

    March 28, 2010 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  25. gerry

    @ann, as originally envisioned, the Senate was designed to be an authoritarian body. As it's played out today, rather than debate and act, the GOP appears, to me at least, to be hiding behind rote obstructionism. They would prefer to complain about recess appointments (in this case; other examples abound) than to act.

    Lest you believe it's been this way solely for Obama, the Democrats have done the same thing, but overall, they've not held up the bulk of appointments for the first third of a president's term. Regardless, it's unforgivable when either party plays that game.

    What we're seeing in this Congress is a bunch of folks to whom this is all a game. They're playing with my Country, and they're not playing fair.

    March 28, 2010 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
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