With Louisiana Sens. Mary Landrieu (D) and David Vitter (R) blocking a vote on the confirmation of Jack Lew, President Obama’s pick to lead the White House budget team, speculation ran rampant this week that Obama might offer Lew a recess appointment.
Well, that won’t be happening.
Last night, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid decided he’d hold multiple weekly pro-forma Senate sessions during the election-season recess, which will prevent Obama from legally recess appointing his stalled nominees. The reason, according to top Democratic and Republican aides has nothing to do with recess appointments per se, but rather with protecting the rest of Obama’s executive and judicial nominees.
All presidential nominees expire when Congress adjourns for recess, unless the entire Senate agrees they can be carried over to the next session. Obama’s had to renominate several of his picks after recent recesses because of this obscure rule, and with Republicans, and even some Democrats, objecting to so much these days, Reid’s decision will allow all of Obama’s nominees to remain valid when the Senate returns in November.
The main consequence, though, is that Lew and others will not be granted recess appointments.
That’s no small problem. The Office of Management and Budget has been without a director for weeks, and that could hobble the office as budget season heats up.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.