Robert Knight

Back in 1973, when the Nixon Administration was under fire for Watergate, Press Secretary Ron Ziegler uttered an unforgettable response when caught in a lie during a press conference: “This is the operative statement. The others are inoperative.”

Well, the Obama Administration just topped that by essentially declaring the U.S. Constitution “inoperative.” Mr. Obama did not use that term when making an illegal recess appointment of Richard Cordray to the new post of consumer czar on January 4, but he might as well have.

Cordray will head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which will do its best to strangle any thought that business owners might have of getting out from under oppressive bureaucracy long enough to create any new jobs that aren’t in the government.

Remember, these are the same folks who thought it was a great idea to let Barney Frank bring the magic of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to the financial sector with the awful Dodd-Frank law. But merit aside, the Cordray appointment was made outside constitutional bounds.

Here’s what the official White House blog says about why they staged the Cordray coup:

“The Constitution gives the President the authority to make temporary recess appointments to fill vacant positions when the Senate is in recess.... In an overt attempt to prevent the President from exercising his authority during this period, Republican Senators insisted on using a gimmick called “pro forma” sessions, which are sessions during which no Senate business is conducted and instead one or two Senators simply gavel in and out of session in a matter of seconds.”

What the White House regards as “gimmicks” are the letter of the law of the Constitution. Article I, Section 5, says “Neither House, during the Session of Congress, shall without the Consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days, nor to any other Place than that in which the two Houses shall be sitting.”

Under Speaker John Boehner, the House has not granted the Senate adjournment. So, like it or not, Harry Reid’s do-nothing Senate, which has not passed a budget in three years, is still in session. In 2007, Reid refused to adjourn the Senate in order to block President Bush’s recess appointments. Unlike Obama, Bush abided by the Constitution and backed off.

Obama also loaded up the National Labor Relations Board with three more recess appointees who won’t threaten the conviviality of the current labor union-packed board, whose hobby appears to be sticking needles into a voodoo doll shaped like South Carolina.

Robert Knight

Robert Knight is an author, senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union and a frequent contributor to Townhall.