Earlier today, the DC Circuit issued a decision in case challenging President Obama's recess appointments of three of the five members of the National Labor Relations Board. This is one of several lawsuits challenging these recess appointments, as well as that of Richard Cordray to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Board. While much of the focus will be on the fact that the court ruled against President Obama, this is just one part of a much larger picture: None of this litigation would be occurring but for nonstop and unprecedented obstructionism.
The president had made nominations to the NLRB in early 2011. But Senate Republicans prevented the Senate from holding yes-or-no confirmation votes, which meant that beginning last January, the NLRB would no longer have enough members to have a quorum. In other words, Republicans – who did not have the votes to change our federal labor laws legislatively – nevertheless could undermine an important agency dedicated to protecting the rights of labor. All they had to do was prevent the Senate from doing its job.
In the case of Richard Cordray, Republicans sought to accomplish through obstruction what they had failed to do legislatively. They opposed the creation of a strong Consumer Financial Protection Board during the first years of Obama's presidency, but they lost that battle. The Board was created, but it could not perform many of its vital consumer protection responsibilities without a director. Senate Republicans admitted that they had no problem at all with Richard Cordray. They simply refused to confirm him because they opposed the very existence of the Board he was asked by the president to run. As long as they could keep him off the Board, consumers would remain unprotected by many aspects of the new reform law.
The Senate should have been able to vote on all these confirmations, both to the NLRB and to the CFPB. But Senate Republicans chose to prevent those votes as part of their overall strategy of obstructing anything or anyone supported by President Obama. That harmful sabotage of one of the Senate's basic responsibilities is what led to the recess appointments.
It is worth noting that yesterday, the president announced that he will renominate Cordray. Republicans should not repeat the mistakes of the past: Whether they support him or not, they should allow the CFPB to do its job. And that can only happen if they allow a confirmation vote to occur.