Of course I am very, very happy that the self-interest of a politician and the greater public good happened to nicely coincide for a change. But not so fast, liberals! Cynic that I am, let me suggest that the recess appointments were done not only to strengthen his poll numbers -- but mainly to circumvent attempted criminal sedition by the obstructionist Republicans. Had the president not made the appointments (and remember, he went right down to the wire on them) he theoretically could have been a criminal enabler himself. Can-kicking and procrastination can be legal no-nos sometimes, as well as bad and cowardly public policy all the time.
It wasn't the qualifications or the personality of Richard Cordray that had the GOP nihilists balking at his confirmation. It was the agency itself -- an agency that was formed by an Act of Congress. Republicans were actually attempting to illegally nullify a federal agency. Ditto for the NLRB: their aim was to destroy the whole office. Very, very illegal. Here is how Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution describes the ongoing Republican obstructionism:
In the case of the Consumer Protection Board, Senate Republicans have said they would not confirm anyone who does not agree to restructure the leadership of the agency from a single person to a multi-member body. They insist that a legitimately passed law be changed before allowing it to function with a director – a modern-day form of nullification. Same with the director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. There is nothing normal or routine about this. The Senate policing of non-cabinet appointments is sometimes more aggressive but the current practice goes well beyond that, more like pre-Civil War days than 20th century practice.Of course, Donald Berwick, the recently departed director of Medicare and Medicaid Services, resigned when the Congressional minority vowed to block his nomination. He had unforgivably expressed an admiration for the British system of single payer health care. And Obama never fought for Berwick, who has been replaced by a government bureaucrat who will presumably not discuss any socialist tendencies.
Too bad Obama hasn't actually called Mitch McConnell and his cohort out as traitors or coup d'etat villains on their hijacking of democracy. He found himself some mo, but forgot the jo. Very, very tepid.
And he made very, very sure to get the legal advice that if the Republicans do happen to sue him over the appointments, they will not have a leg to stand on. If he wasn't sure of being the winner going in, I doubt he would have attempted the appointments. This, being an election year, was also a good time to throw the base some bigger chunks of bread instead of the usual crumbs.
The NLRB recess appointments may have even more to with presidential politics than the CFPB, although had the vacancies remained unfilled, this longstanding federal agency would have literally died too. Labor journalist Mike Elk lays it out:
President Obama's rapid fix to the NLRB's problem stands in stark contrast to the beginning of his term in January 2009, when the board was also inoperable. Obama waited 14 months to make recess appointments to fill those slots.Trumka wasted no time in lavishing praise on Obama's appointment, thus presumably giving himelf the needed cover to endorse his candidacy. Trumka, it should be remembered, is also a member of Obama's in-house corporate CEO lobby, laughably known as the White House Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.
The speed in making the appointments may be a move by the White House to gain the support of the AFL-CIO, which has yet to endorse Obama, unlike other major unions like AFSCME, NEA, UFCW and SEIU. It’s unclear as well if the AFL-CIO's delay in endorsing Obama, or AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka’s recent call for greater political independence for organized labor played any role in pressuring the White House to quickly make the recess appointments to both the CFPB and NLRB.
When it comes to right-to-work (anti-union) states, Obama has remained his usual passive-aggressive tepid (arch-conservative) self. He infamously called off his Organizing for America campaign arm from direct involvement in the Wisconsin collective bargaining demonstrations last winter. He has yet to take a stand on upcoming anti-labor legislation in Indiana. And several trade unions are planning to boycott the Democratic National Convention in North Carolina -- another high unemployment, anti-union state. But conveniently home to Fort Bragg and all those returning troops.