harlan logo

The Recess Appointment Power: The President's Secret Weapon

March 28th, 2014

Government is a necessary authority in society.  What is even more important, however, is a government that is efficient at doing its various jobs.  The President’s recess appointment power improves the ability of the government to make itself more effective.  The ability for a president to appoint officials to positions, when Congress is not in session, is crucial for keeping the government on task.  If every appointee had to be voted upon by Congress it would stop many of the president’s selections from holding office in their positions.  The recess appointment power is one of the president’s most important powers because of its ability to stop standoffs between the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch.

With a divided government such as ours, standoffs between the president and the legislative branch are all too common. Divided parties seem to love making the president’s job much harder than it needs to be and that can be seen all too much with our congress’ approval ratings being the lowest they have ever been. With that in mind, congress has been known to promptly block important position of power from coming into play, leaving massive voids of power within the government himself. The CIA director, chairman’s of various branches of homeland security, could all be blocked by the whim and rule of congress. With these voids of power, these branches and agencies become virtually useless to the United States as a whole. With the president’s power to ‘overcome’ these blocks, the massive voids of power that seem to render the agencies useless are finally filled. This undeniably supports the use of this power for without our agencies and other programs, the United States would be a much weaker entity, all because of the grudge that multi-parties have against one another.

Furthermore, not only is this expression of power by the Executive Branch necessary, it is wholly within the the Executive Branch’s Article II powers. It explicitly states in the Constitution that “The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.” There is no ambiguity to this language; if Congress is in recess the president has the power to unilaterally fill vacancies. A simple pro forma session of Congress is not a sufficient measure in preventing to the President from acting within his explicit Article II powers. The Senate’s own website defines a recess as “A temporary interruption of the Senate’s proceedings, sometimes within the same day.” Since no legislative business is even expected to be carried out during these pro forma sessions, they are clearly interruptions of the Senate’s normal proceedings.

In the end, it is clear that the Executive Branch must hold powers that enable the government, as a whole, to continue functioning and to continue putting forth laws that will effectively and efficiently run the country. By postponing voting on judges and courts every time the Senate goes on break between enumerated sessions, courts would be slowed which would only more so delay the functionality of the government. By allowing the President to recess-appointment powers, one enables him to push forward the mechanics of the government. So, altogether, by allowing the Executive branch to have its recess-appointment powers, we cut through much toil that would occur in the Senate and Legislative Branch, and allow for laws to more speedily and effectively be passed in the United States.