Recess Disappointment

Rumor has it in Washington that former Undersecretary of State for Arms Control John Bolton will receive a “recess appointment” to serve as UN ambassador. Such appointments are fairly common and normally uncontroversial, but there are the occasional exceptions. Bolton would be an exception, as was the recess appointment of James Hormel to serve as ambassador to Luxembourg after Republican Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma refused to allow a vote on his nomination on the grounds that it was unacceptable to give the job to a gay man. In light of the issue's re-emergence, a look back at conservative thinking on recess appointments just a few years ago is instructive. Turns out they didn't always support the idea.

Sen. Larry Craig, quoted in the Associated Press, November 10, 1999: “There will be a very clear message. If they choose to make recess appointments that will be controversial, they will not get any more appointments.”

Sen. Bob Smith, quoted in The Los Angeles Times, June 5, 1999: “I view this as the president saying, ‘In your face, Senate; you can have your “advise and consent.”'”

Sen. Jim Inhofe, quoted in The Los Angeles Times, June 5, 1999: “I intend to explore all available means to appropriately respond to this arrogant insult to the Congress and the American people.”

Sen. Trent Lott, quoted in The Washington Times, June 10, 1999: “Administration officials have got to assure us they aren't going to do these recess appointments again without our being aware of them and approving them.”

The Weekly Standard, “Scrapbook,” July 5, 1999: “Going behind Congress' back is becoming a habit for Bill Clinton. First, he misused a recess appointment (generally reserved for emergencies) to make gay-rights activist James Hormel the ambassador to Luxembourg.”

Bush campaign spokesman David Beckwith quoted in The Weekly Standard, June 21, 1999: “‘Governor Bush would make extremely limited use of the recess appointment power, and never to make political points.”