Maybe one of you can help me out a little. I was reading through the U.S. Constitution the other day, trying to find the part where it says the president has the right to tell the Senate when it is in session and when it isn’t.
Maybe one of you can help me out a little.
I was reading through the U.S. Constitution the other day, trying to find the part where it says the president has the right to tell the Senate when it is in session and when it isn’t.
Oh, you say that’s not in the Constitution at all? Well, that would explain why I couldn’t find it, wouldn’t it.
I was curious about that, you see, because last week President Barack Obama made some “recess” appointments even though the Senate was not in recess.
I didn’t have any trouble finding this one part, in Article II, Section 3: “. . . he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint . . . all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law . . . .”
And this other part too, a little further on: “The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.”
But nothing about the president having the authority to tell the Senate that it isn’t really in session even though the Senate’s rules declare it to be in session.
True, there is this one part, in Article II, Section 3: “. . . he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses [of Congress], or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper . . . .”
But that obviously doesn’t apply in this case, because this was neither an extraordinary occasion nor a case of disagreement between the House and Senate with respect to the time of adjournment. Both the House and Senate agree that the 112th Congress will not adjourn until late this year, so there can be no justification for the president to use his extraordinary power of adjourning Congress.
It certainly would stretch the words of the Constitution past the breaking point if a president were to adjourn Congress so he can make recess appointments and avoid seeking the advice and consent of the Senate.
That’s why President Obama didn’t invoke that constitutional power when he made his bogus “recess” appointments. He didn’t claim to be adjourning Congress. Rather, he claimed that the Senate was not in session even though the Senate really was in session.
No president has ever done that before, and for good reason — because it’s a violation of the Constitution. Congress, not the president, gets to makes its own rules for when its sessions begin and when they end.
What’s that you say? “Pro forma” sessions of the Senate aren’t real sessions, just political ploys?
Oh, they’re political ploys, no question. They’re also unquestionably legal and valid.
Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid certainly thought they were real sessions when he started using them in 2007 to stop President George W. Bush from making recess appointments. President Bush, quite correctly, agreed with Reid, and never attempted to make a “recess” appointment when the Senate wasn’t in recess.
President Obama, however, doesn’t like it when Republicans so effectively turn his party’s favorite political weapons against him, and he apparently thinks the Constitution doesn’t apply to him.
He needs to be reminded of Article II, Section 4: “The President . . . shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
Flouting Article II, Section 2 is obviously a “high crime or misdemeanor.”
It goes without saying that there is absolutely no chance that Obama will be impeached during an election year, and with the Democrats in control of the Senate. He should be impeached, but he won’t be — not this year, if ever. If he is reelected, and if the Republicans win control of the Senate this fall, hopefully they’ll have the courage to hold the president accountable for what he has done.
In the meantime, since Obama has chosen to play a game of chicken with the Separation of Powers, Congress must challenge his illegal appointments in court.
If Obama doesn’t back down, Congress will have lost its authority to set its own rules, and the president will have acquired a new, despotic power over Congress.
Jared Olar may be reached at email@example.com.