This post was updated at 1:21 p.m. to reflect comment from House GOP Leadership.
President Obama’s recess appointment of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director Richard Cordray could create another internal headache for Republican leaders in the House, many of whose members want to pick a public fight with Democrats over the controversy.
Scores of House Republicans have signed on to a non-binding resolution disapproving of Obama’s four winter recess appointments — Cordray, and three members of the National Labor Relations Board — all fodder for conservatives, who are furious about the existence of these agencies, let alone the recess appointments themselves.
“It’s astounding to me that the president is claiming these are recess appointments and within his authority, when Congress was not in fact in recess,” said Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) who authored the resolution. “These appointments are an affront to the Constitution. No matter how you look at this, it doesn’t pass the smell test. I hope the House considers my resolution as soon as we return to Washington so we can send a message to President Obama.”
This creates an election-year dilemma for GOP leaders who may not want to make a big show of their opposition to the one person in Washington tasked with protecting consumers from predatory financial actors.
A House GOP Leadership aide says top Republicans are reviewing all options, including this resolution. But Democrats will be all too happy if they pick the fight.
“It shows once again whose side they’re on,” said Nadeam Elshami, spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. “They’re willing to go after the middle class and consumers while protecting bad actors who prey on millions of Americans, and at the same time they’re unwilling for the last two weeks to meet to provide the middle class with a payroll tax cut.”
Another Dem leadership aide explained, “They’re in a very difficult spot. Politically the smart thing for them to do is drop this issue and move on. There’s no win for them here.”
Maybe so. But rank and file Republicans are still taken with the idea of fighting Obama aggressively, at every turn. The fact that the resolution encompasses the NLRB — conservatives’ real bête noire — as well as the CFPB only enhances that allure.
Black’s office says she’s operating independently of leadership, without a guarantee that it will get a floor vote — but 80 House Republicans already have her back.
Late update: Another GOP Leadership aide chimes in, “The idea that this is a problem for the House Republican Leadership is pretty dumb.”
We’re all outraged by the President’s actions - which seems blatantly unconstitutional - and there are plenty of ways to communicate that without taking our focus off jobs. Frankly, if you look at the statements the House Republican Leaders made at the time, you’ll see that they are squarely focused on how this new bureaucracy makes it harder to create more American jobs.
Additional reporting by Sahil Kapur.
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.