Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley wasn’t surprised, but was disappointed, by the political shenanigans Wednesday that saw the U.S. Senate gaveled into session for a mere nine seconds before adjourning. Only one senator, Virginia Democrat Jim Webb, was in the chamber.
The brief session was all that was needed to qualify as the governmental body being in session, avoiding being in "recess" and thus, blocking a recess appointment by President Bush. Grassley, a Republican, was unimpressed by the move.
"I think it’s an extra-constitutional thing to keep a president from doing what he has the constitutional power to do and that’s when Congress isn’t in session to appoint positions to acting positions when the Congress either has refused or gotten around the confirmation process," Grassley says. The president can only make so-called recess appointments when Congress is off, but the nine-second "session" on Wednesday was all that was needed to circumvent the process.
Democrats dislike one of Bush’s nominees for assistant attorney general. Grassley says the oddball nine-second session was unnecessary. Grassley says, "The confirmation process has become too political, whether it’s for judges, where it’s more difficult for the president to do ‘interim’ appointments but he can still do it, or for cabinet positions and in particular for cabinet positions that aren’t lifetime appointments but appointments for the president’s term at the lengthiest." He says President Bush has had a very difficult time getting several of the top people he’s chosen into positions of power.
Grassley says, "This congress has been very slow in getting confirmations done, both when Republicans were in control and Democrats as a minority were holding them up and now we’re being held up by the majority Democrats." Congress isn’t expected to come back from the current holiday break until January 15th, so Democrats are reportedly planning more of the brief "sessions" to avoid this being an official recess.