Democrats & Liberals Archives

Bush Needs To Take A Recess From Recess Appointments

President Bush made yet another recess appointment Friday, this time placing Alabama AG William H. Pryor, Jr.—a darling of the religious right and ultra-conservatives everywhere, on the U.S. Of Appeals For the 11th Circuit. Pryor, one of six ultra-conservative judicial appellate nominees being blocked by the U.S. Senate, will serve until 2005.

So, what’s up with Bush’s penchant for bypassing the Senate and securing his most controversial nominees get their posts through recess appointments? That’s a good question.

Given that this is an election year, one would think Bush would shy away from such controversial tactics, considering he will need as much goodwill as possible from independent and liberal-leaning voters in order to actually secure election. Obviously, Pryor's appointment will make him even less attractive to pro-choice voters and those who firmly believe in separation of church and state. So, such an appointment won't go too far in securing him many swing voters, except perhaps those residing within the state of Alabama.

Democratic pollster Geffrey D. Garin told the Washington Post Bush is finding that:

"[C]onservatives are angry about a host of things at a time when he ought to be making a turn to focus on the middle of the electorate."

Bush could, however, be trying to solidify his appeal among religious-righters and ultra-conservatives within his own party.

The Post notes:

Bush's recess appointment was hailed by conservatives at a time when the right wing of his party has complained to the White House about issues including record federal spending and a delay in an endorsement of a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

Of course, given Bush's record, it is hard to fathom that even the most "ultra" of the ultra-right wingers and ultra-conservatives within his party would defect and vote against him.

Then again, Bush could simply be working to make judicial appointments a hallmark of his re-election campaign:

Republican officials described Bush's action as a signal that he intends to make judicial choices a key issue in his reelection race, as well as another example of his determination to expand executive power at the expense of the legislative branch, The Washington Post noted.

But, even Bush should know that the average voter doesn't vote for President based on who he will appoint to the bench. Sure, party activists and folks who keep an eye on special agendas like abortion will pay attention to that. The average voter, however, wants to know what the President will do to shore up the economy, prevent us from further getting bogged down in the quagmire that is Iraq, and what the President will do to restore some form of confidence in corporate America.

The average voter probably won't vote for a candidate based on who he'll appoint to the bench. The average voter may, however, be less inclined to vote for a candidate who usurps constitutional process and takes advantage of a constitutional provision to put people on the bench who don't reflect the values of average Americans.

As for recess appointments generally, more than 300 judicial recess appointments have been made since 1789, the first year such was permissible. (This averages out to less than ten per president.)

In many cases, recess appointments have been used to good measure. In fact, four of the first five African American appellate judges got their positions through recess appointments. And, as noted in 2000, many presidents have used their power to make recess appointments to add diversity to courts by appointing qualified minority candidates to judicial office.

This isn't the case with Pryor. His appointment does little for the idea of diversity, and given the proliferation of conservative non-minority judges in the South, Bush could have picked a less controversial, though still conservative, nominee and probably secured that person a more legitimate bench appointment given that the Senate has confirmed 171 of Bush's less controversial nominees.

The bottom line is that Bush needs to take a recess from making recess appointments. Even if he is making reshaping the judiciary a cornerstone of his campaign, he should not do so at the expense of the rights of the American people.

In fact, from a political standpoint, wouldn't it be better ammunition for his stump speeches to be able to say that his nominees have been blocked rather than for him to have to admit that he misused a constitutional provision to place a nominee on the bench that the Senate didn't see fit to hold office?

Posted by at February 22, 2004 3:33 AM