By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
In response to recent recess appointments by President Barack Obama, Congressman Jo Bonner (R) joined 94 other Congressmen in an open letter to President Obama “to express strong object” to his January 4, 2012 recess appointments.
Bonner and his Congressional colleagues wrote “These appointments establish a dangerous precedent that threatens the confirmation process and undermines the system of checks and balances embedded it the Constitution.”
The group, which represents 22 percent of the sitting members of the United States Congress, went on “This unprecedented and blatant attempt to override legislative power effectively erases the advice and consent of the Senate from the appointments clause and imperils the legislative checks on executive power that the Founders thought necessary to prevent the emergence of tyranny.”
The Congressmen objected to all four of the President’s appointments. “We write to express our strong objection to the recent appointment of Richard Cordray as Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and Sharon Block, Terence Flynn, and Richard Griffin to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).”
The members of Congress who signed the letter were also troubled by the powers that the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) would wield and the lack of Congressional oversight over the powerful new federal agency. They said, “The CFPB, to be funded by the Federal Reserve, is insulated from congressional oversight, and can potentially affect almost every facet of American business. By preventing the Senate from engaging in an honest and open questioning of Mr. Cordray, the American people have been robbed of the last and only check on a nearly unaccountable yet extremely powerful position.”
In his press release Rep. Bonner wrote, “The presidential recess appointments, which included Richard Cordray, the head of the newly-created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, were conducted while the Senate was not in recess, and thus are unconstitutional.”
Many constitutional scholars are in agreement with Rep. Bonner’s assessment. Professor John Yoo wrote, “It is up to the Senate to decide when it is in session or not. The President cannot decide the legitimacy of the activities of the Senate any more than he could for the other branches, and vice versa.”
Even Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, then Obama’s solicitor general wrote that “the Senate may act to foreclose [recess appointments] by declining to recess for more than two or three days at a time over a lengthy period.”
However, this is not a unanimous viewpoint. Bush administration official Karl Rove on Fox News said that the Bush administration had heard from constitutional experts with both views, but ultimately President Bush opted not to risk triggering a constitutional crisis by defying the rules of the Senate.
In his statement announcing the controversial recess appointments President Obama said, “The American people deserve to have qualified public servants fighting for them every day—whether it is to enforce new consumer protections or uphold the rights of working Americans. We can’t wait to act to strengthen the economy and restore security for our middle class and those trying to get in it.”
Congressman Jo Bonner represents Alabama’s First Congressional District. The First District includes all or parts of Mobile, Baldwin, Clarke, Escambia, Washington, and Monroe Counties. Rep. Jo Bonner is the Chairman of the House Ethics Committee. He also serves on the House Appropriations Committee.
Read both the letter and Rep. Bonner’s comments