Yesterday, President Obama ignited controversy when he appointed Richard Cordray as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Board and three new members to the National Labor Relations Board. Recess appointments are, of course, normal occurances in the course of a presidency. George W. Bush had made over sixty by this point in his first term.
The problem? The Senate isn't in recess right now. They're in a pro forma session, an informal session in which they do not conduct business, but nonetheless, not a recess. Obama's move -- appointing officials without Senate confirmation while the Senate is in session -- is entirely unprecedented.
His defense? He had to.
In his speech defending the appointment (watch the clip here), the president said:
But when Congress refuses to act, and as a result, hurts our economy and puts our people at risk, then I have an obligation as President to do what I can without them. I’ve got an obligation to act on behalf of the American people. And I’m not going to stand by while a minority in the Senate puts party ideology ahead of the people that we were elected to serve. Not with so much at stake, not at this make-or-break moment for middle-class Americans. We’re not going to let that happen.
Actually, Mr. President, if you were paying any attention at all during your inauguration, you would know that your only obligation is to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." If the Senate is in session, you are required to have its consent before appointing an official. And the Senate was in session -- however technically.
Who needs the Constitution? Certainly not Obama.