Unconstitutional Recess Appointments Haven’t Helped Obama in the Polls

Posted: Jan 21, 2012 12:01 AM

It has just been over a week since President Obama made his “recess” appointments to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the National Labor Relations Board.  I suggested last week that this might turn out to be Obama’s “Court-Packing” moment, where he begins to discover that (some) Americans actually do care about the Constitution.  While its clearly too early to say anything with certainty, it appears I may have been correct.

On January 3th, the day before the appointments, Obama’s job approval ratings, according to RealClearPolitics, averaged 47.2 approval and 47.8 disapproval.  Basically a tie.

Today, his job approval is at 44.5 and disapproval is 50.3.  Moving over the course of a week from a tie to a spread of almost 6 percentage points. 

Usually we have not seen such large changes over the course of a week.  Now obviously one cannot contribute all this decline to the recess appointments, but there were no other big Presidential announcements or even big economic news over the last week that could account for such a slide in support.  So while this doesn’t prove anything, it does suggest these appointments, even if they are making his base happy, are coming at the expense of the support of independents.

One of the rationales oft heard for Obama’s recent “recess” appointments is that the Senate is not “doing its job” or that Republicans have blocked his nominees and that our government “cannot function.”  Putting aside the absurdity of the argument that somehow if Congress fails to “do its job” that empowers the President to take over its job, the simple fact is that the vast majority of Obama nominations have actually been confirmed by the Senate.

Between January 5, 2011, the beginning of the 1st session of the 112th Congress, and December 30,2011, the Senate received 20,517 nominations from the Obama Administration.  Of those, 19,815 were confirmed by the Senate, which rounds up to 97 percent.  And this ignores the fact that some nominations, like those to the National Labor Relations Board, were not received until December, hardly giving the Senate any time to consider and confirm said nominations.

One can argue that not all nominations are equal.  For instance the majority of nominations are military positions.  You can decide for yourself whether a general or admiral is equal to an assistant secretary or bureau director.  If one wants to produce a “quality-adjusted” nominations index, they are free to do so.  None of this changes the basic fact:  President Obama has had the majority of his nominations confirmed by the Senate.  Claims to the contrary are simply false.