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. Brian in California

    After a year and 3 months the appointments had still gone unfulfilled. The Republicans were doing nothing but putting up opposition to EVERYTHING especially now that health care went through. They have been and still are acting like spoiled teenagers. I wholeheartedly agree with Obama's recess appointments.

    It seems like the republicans have been, over the last year, trying to act like bullies. The Democrats took a bit of the high road and submitted to compromise under the repubs heavy handed tactics. NOW the Democrats have become bold and have acquired the guts to to stand up to the "bullies" and guess what? The bullies have nothing else to intimidate them with, nothing left to offer, so now they're whining about dividing Congress even more when it has been the extreme right that is primarily to blame for the hyper-partisanship.

    Perhaps the key to changing Washington is not with cooperative efforts but with putting the bullies in their place and force them to change their strategy of "No" to one that is more towards working in a professional manner like most working adults in this country.

    March 28, 2010 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  2. Edwin

    President Bill Clinton made 139 recess appointments during his two terms in office, and President George W. Bush made more than 170, according to the Congressional Research Service."

    So... Obama is disregarding checks and balances by appointing how many again? Oh yeah - FIFTEEN. Honestly, I think he is trying too hard to work with republicans.

    Bipartisanship only works if both sides try, and this clearly shows the GOP aren't trying. We can talk about health care until we are blue in the face, but stalling on 77 appointments is purely political.

    March 28, 2010 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  3. freelance

    Bush make recess appointments, despite having had 5 appointments delayed by this point in his presidency. Obama has had 77 delayed. Funny how different "checks and balances" can be depending on which party is in office. BTW, Weatherman, the recession in Democratic, union MA is considered to be largely over. And that's not because of Scott Brown.

    March 28, 2010 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  4. AJ

    No, what its called is obstructionism. Hopefully the healthcare battle has shown this president that republicans have no intention of thoughtful cosideration of policy that is put before them for consideration and compromise. Their main goal is to obstruct. I'm hoping that after the healthcare debacle, Obama and the democrats have learned their lesson and from here on in they tell the republicans that they can either get on board and help craft legislation or they will be left out of the process. Period.

    March 28, 2010 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  5. Dieter Zerressen

    Bush had 170 recess appointments during his Presidency but of course Republicans aren't much at history. The point is the Senate is there to advise and consent, not to obstruct. Remember the Republican call for "an up or down vote" in the past? Let's have an up or down vote now. Most nominees have been voted out of committee, now the Senate just needs to vote. To not vote at all is obstructionism. McCain said the Republicans are not going to participate in the legislative process for the rest of the year. I'm glad Obama finally is dropping these failed attempts at bipartisanship and just goes forth and governs like we overwhelmingly elected him to do!

    March 28, 2010 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  6. Eric

    Last I checked, Repubs were in the minority....Instead of constantly whining about not being in power and being obstructionists, why don't you do something constructive.

    March 28, 2010 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  7. Ancient Texan

    You Lefties that keep babbling about the Republicans being obstructionist, can't figure out for yourself that they can't obstruct anything, they don't have the votes. But I'm proud of the Republicans for saying NO. Somebody has got to attempt to stop the insanity of this spend, spend, spend Administration.

    March 28, 2010 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  8. The GOP is vulnerable in 2010!

    Bull, the is not the Presidency trying to usurp power from congress. If it was they would have looked into Bush's misuse of signing statements as line item vetoes. This is a hand full of senators trying to obstruct any sort of legislation from going through strictly for political gain and at the expense of the American people. We are the ones who suffer when jobs legislation does not get passed. We are the ones who suffer when insurance companies continue to take our money but and then deny service to terminally ill individuals. Future generations of Americans are the ones who suffer when these jerks let the multinational corporations do the long term social planning needed in this country at the expense of the real needs of average Americans. These Republicans should not expect to be handed reelection on a silver platter come 2010. Republican victories can easily be turned into Republican defeat of these elitist aristocrats who think they can build their 2nd home on the dime of their corporate buddies.

    March 28, 2010 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  9. historian

    I think this needs to be said – I went to church this morning and all I heard was that the pastor, last Sunday night, said most everyone in the church was conservative so it was safe to express his thoughts on abortion and liberal politics. In attending Bible class I had to listen to little old ladies in their 80s crying Obama was the anti-christ and woe is everyone. I've now decided to stop going to church because this behavior really grieves me. One thing for sure, as independent as I am, I won't vote for a republican in November.

    March 28, 2010 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  10. badger

    The hypocrites are at it again, Bush did around 170 of these appointments. Finally the Dems have gotten the message that the Repug's will do anything to make the President fail.
    Let's look at the real facts with these guys starting at Reagan who left us with 3 trillion in debt, Bush I cost the taxpayers about 1.3 trillion on the bail out of the S&L's, Bush II left us with the greatest recession since the great depression, two wars, one that was by choice, deregulation of the finanical industry, 3 trillion in tax cuts to the richest 1% , and another 3 trillion on the medicare drug program.
    Yet Republican's can stand and tell one lie after another, claiming they have all the answers yet add nothing to the debate except NO.

    March 28, 2010 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  11. Carmelle

    But that is not what you are doing. What you have mastered is called : Obstruction.

    If you did not approve of those ppl, why didn't you vote them down so the administration can look for others?

    Dems are not the solution if they became the only ruling party, but sdaly, the GOP can longer be trusted as a political party

    March 28, 2010 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  12. Tayo, New York

    Good expressions from you all.

    It's all politics as usual!

    March 28, 2010 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  13. Vol Fan

    We are witnessing a once-great political party committing politicide. The Republican Party of Lincoln, TR, Dirksen, and many others has become the party of Palin, Limbaugh, and semi-literate tea partiers.

    Many of them look like extras from "Deliverance," and they couldn't spell "cat" if you gave them a "c" and an "a." Just look at their signs.

    The face of the modern Republican Party is a sad parody of what it once was. Faux News, one of the agents causing this descent into political oblivion, is a lot like professional wrestling. It's all fake, but there will always be a certain number of people who will believe it's real.

    Fox follows the old tradition of "the big lie." Tell the people a big lie often enough with sufficient ranting and raving, and some of them will believe it.

    I am proud of my president ,and I thank God every day that this good and decent man sits where liars and warmongers once wreaked their havoc.

    March 28, 2010 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  14. Michael

    Exactly! Checks and balances allow the President to lead the nation forward without the Senate if and when the Senate becomes too embroiled in corruption to function properly.
    Notice that Bush made 170 recess appointments and that was OK with these people; now Obama's 14 appointments signal the end of the world.

    March 28, 2010 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  15. Stacie

    I support OUR PRESIDENT! These jobs need to be filled so our country runs smoothly. Holding them up for pure political reasons is anti-American. Yet, you righties run around spouting off about freedom and calling yourselves patriots. Sickening! You should be ashamed of yourselves!

    March 28, 2010 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  16. Frank

    Lamar, you have really zipped off the partisan cliff on this one. Bush made 179 recess appointments, most of whom were in fact unqualified. There is no truth whatsoever to the claim that this is unusual when given the obstructionist agenda of the GOP. Give up the ourrage and self righteousness, please!

    March 28, 2010 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  17. chibeardan

    Yes, he is right that the Congress has a check on the Executive branch in terms of his appointees. However, the framers were clever enough to realize that this check could be abused by the Congress, and therefore put in the constitution the provision for the President to make recess appointments.

    On the other hand, their is no constitutional provision that allows for denying a vote on Presidential appointees. The Constitution is a wonderful document and the Republicans should familiarize themselves with it.

    March 28, 2010 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  18. Allen Hussein

    My only regret is that Obama has not made more recess appointments and that he hadn't made them sooner.

    March 28, 2010 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  19. TM

    Republicans didn't seem to mind when Bush made nearly 300 recess appointments. Will the hypocrisy ever end?

    March 28, 2010 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  20. Dan

    The Republican ability to disregard any sort of historical context is truly amazing.

    Obama did exactly the right thing with these appointments. The Republicans are already foaming at the collective mouth over healthcare. Did they think he was going to wait for them to calm down before getting them riled up again? When the leaders of party like McCain are on record saying Obama should expect ZERO cooperation this year regardless of the issue, what exactly did they think was going to happen.

    These clowns expect everything to come to a complete halt until they're in power again.

    March 28, 2010 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  21. A keen observer

    Just another republican whining because he cannot have his way. The President's recess appointments are a Constitutional way around republican obstructionism. Obama is way behind Bush in using recess appointments to get around Congressional roadblocks.

    It it time for republicans to quit whining and start working with Democrats to solve the country's problems.

    March 28, 2010 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  22. Just_Me

    The Republicans really bug the you know what out of me with their holier than thou stuff. Give me a break.

    How quickly they forget that George W. Bush did the exact same thing (heck every President does the EXACT SAME THING).

    March 28, 2010 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  23. peter

    The useless Republicans keep saying wait till November, wait till November...well i got news for yall in November you guys are gonna lose plenty too...mccain will not get re-elected losers! Democrats are gonna come out enmasse too! We like what our elected official is doing in the white house!

    March 28, 2010 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  24. RepublicansAreMorons

    Cry me a river. Bush made hundres of recess appointments during his two terms.

    March 28, 2010 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  25. DS

    The teams that show up at the game get to play and make decisions. My Republican friends have decided not to show up for months, most recently this week when multiple hearings were cancelled because of their post-health care bill passage tantrum. The team that defaults loses the right to play and make decisions. The President, who has been willing to be bipartisan long beyond any good reason or sense, has finally decided to do his job for the Amerian people. The President and Congressional Democrats have showed up. The game is still on, whether or not Republicans show up.

    March 28, 2010 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
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