Last night the Senate Republicans agreed to release holds on a number of Obama nominees: “The 27 confirmations mean no recess appointments will be needed during this break, top administration officials said. Recess appointments, which a president can make when Congress is not in session, are temporary and generally last to the end of the year.” Those confirmed are reportedly to be all noncontroversial, and do not include Dawn Johnsen (the radical lawyer proposed for the key role as the head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel) or Harold Craig Becker (the National Labor Relations Board nominee who failed to survive a filibuster).
If this means that Obama will not exercise his recess appointment power to install Johnsen, Becker, and others, then this is a very good deal for conservatives. Moreover, it highlights just how unwise was Sen. Richard Shelby’s massive and indiscriminate hold on dozens and dozens of nominees. The proper role of the minority is not to obstruct willy-nilly but rather to exercise individual judgment in determining the qualifications, ethics, and potential biases of nominees. (Indeed, this is the obligation of the entire Senate, if those in the president’s party would refrain from elevating partisan loyalty above their constitutional obligation to provide advice and consent on presidential nominees.)
The arrival of Sen. Scott Brown has certainly had its impact. ObamaCare is grinding to a halt. If the president’s more extreme nominees can be shunted aside while permitting other, generally deserving nominees to assume their duties, then Republicans can rightly claim some credit. And more important, the country will be the better for it.