President Obama’s controversial “recess” appointment strategy was underhanded, politically-motivated, an abuse of power, potentially unconstitutional, and pretty much every other label Republicans have thrown at it. But perhaps the worst part for the GOP is that it was also clever – and Republicans could have a tricky time fighting back.
Charles Krauthammer touched on the crux of the problem on Fox News last night (transcript via NRO):
It’s cynical and it works. Look, [opponents like me are] talking about process and procedure and what would look like arcana. And [the president is] arguing “I am protecting the little guy against the Republicans, who [use] constitutional niceties to protect the rich and the 1 percent, the ones who have robbed you.” It’s a good argument [politically]. He wins it. But I think it’s disgraceful.
Republicans are on the right side of this issue, but they may have a hard time winning over the general public. Typically, you oppose appointments because of problems with the appointees, but here the GOP is opposing them because of problems with the agencies themselves. They don’t want the agencies to be able to operate, which sounds obstructionist on its face, and it doesn’t help that these agencies are ostensibly focused on issues like labor and consumer protection. This situation is tailor-made for Obama’s reelection strategy.
The Wall Street Journal recommends that Congress start looking for other ways to push through the necessary reforms:
Congress can’t do much immediately to stop these appointments, but it ought to think creatively about how to fight back using its other powers—especially the power of the purse. However, private parties will have standing to sue if they are affected by one of Mr. Cordray’s rule-makings, and that’s when the courts may get a say on Mr. Obama’s contempt for Congress.
The idea of a legal challenge against Obama’s appointments has been raised constantly during the last two days, though it would be much more effective if the lawsuit was brought by a private party without blatant political associations than by the Senate or Chamber of Commerce.