Just As I Thought

Gaming the System: another example of Bush administration sneakiness

I meant to blog about this yesterday, but got sidetracked. Sorry. Anyway, here’s one of those stories that you never hear about in the everyday media because it’s too complicated to sum up in a soundbite. Via Daily Kos:

Bush’s 41-Second Flip Off to America
On January 4, 2006, Bush announced a list of 17 recess appointments from hell, an obnoxious mix of unworthies so rife with cronyism, nepotism, incompetence and unqualified nominees that he couldn’t get them confirmed even in an accommodating, toadying Republican Senate. Among those included on the magic list were Gordon England (DOD), Julie Myers (Homeland Security), Ellen Sauerbrey (State Department) and Hans von Spakovsky (FEC), who’s spent his term arm-twisting to ensure prejudiced appraisals of attorneys in the Civil Rights Division.
As In These Times summed up the recess appointments at the time:

On January 4, Bush used the congressional recess to bypass the Senate confirmation process and appoint 17 officials to posts in the State Department, Federal Election Commission, National Labor Relations Board and other federal offices. The recess appointments avoided floor fights over dubiously credentialed nominees, including a former oil executive, a former president of a weapons manufacturer and a relative of a cabinet employee. All told, they include eight donors to Bush’s presidential campaigns.

Perhaps, like the Washington Post, readers here assumed these incompetents would be gone in January 2007 with the new Congress. They were, after all, seemingly appointed between sessions of Congress, which would have required their terms to end at the close of the previous session, according to CRS (warning: PDF):

If the President makes a recess appointment between sessions or between Congresses, that appointment will expire at the end of the following session.

As opposed to during a session of Congress:

If he makes the appointment during a recess in the middle of a session, that appointment also will expire at the end of the following session. In this case, the duration of the appointment will include the balance of the session in progress plus the full length of the session that follows.

So why are the hacktacular 17 still hanging hacktacularly around? Here’s where it gets really interesting.
The Senate calendar on the Democratic site shows no meeting until Congress opened on January 18, 2006, which would lead one to assume that date marked the opening of the second year of the 109th Congress. But the Library of Congress indicates a session was held on January 3, 2006, thus officially opening the 109th. And lo and behold, the Daily Digest reports a 41-second pro forma Senate session, from 12:00:04 PM to 12:00:45 P.M., on that date. The Senate convened, immediately adjourned and thus began a “recess in the middle of the session,” not meeting again until January 18, 2006.
The day following the less-than-a-minute convening, of course, Bush made his recess appointments—now officially during a session of Congress—which allowed his eminently rejectable appointees to complete the “balance of the session in progress plus the full length of the session that follows.” Meaning we’re stuck with this gang of uncomfirmable, incompetent, unqualified losers for an extra year.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me again and again and again and again … and you can pretty much begin warming up for a dirge for democracy. It just never ends, does it?

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