For all the successes of his first term, Barack Obama had a number of notable failures, some of which got more attention than others. One of the less-noticed is the fact that Obama has been slow to fill vacancies on the federal courts. Granted, Republicans in the Senate have resisted the appointments he has made, but in many cases, Obama has barely tried. For instance, right now there are three vacancies on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which handles lots of important issues involving the working of the federal government and the separation of powers.
Today, Obama is probably wishing he had been more aggressive about filling those seats. A three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit—Republican appointees all—ruled that the president has no power to make recess appointments when Congress is in a recess, but can only do so during the recess that happens but once a year between congressional sessions. And yes, they expounded in some detail about the critical difference between "a" and "the." The fact that presidents of both parties have been making intrasession recess appointments for half a century didn't seem to matter.
What did matter, however, is that there's a Democrat in the White House right now. The ruling will, of course, make Senate Republicans even more likely (if that's possible) to stonewall Obama's future appointments. Their previous stonewalling is the reason why he has made a number of recess appointments, to bodies like the National Labor Relations Board (the issue in this case) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). After all, if there's an agency you don't like, you don't have to argue against its decisions on the merits—just filibuster the nominees to lead the agency, and you can paralyze it. Republicans were quite explicit that they were doing just that in the case of the CFPB. This case will certainly be appealed to the Supreme Court, so we'll see just how colored the Justices' views are by the identity of the Oval Office's current occupant.
So They Say
“No matter when you need them, you’re always going to have a combat-ready battalion of women on PMS. Pregnancy problem solved. And pretty damn good during combat at the same time. Talk to any man, not being sexist here, just dealing with reality. That’s how you do it.”
“I didn’t sit around thinking: ‘I’m a woman, I don’t think I can carry this gun.' And I can’t speak for the men, but I feel that when the bullets were flying, they didn’t care that I was a woman, as long as I was pulling the trigger.”
Daily Meme: GOP Plan B
- The Republicans have a problem: No one likes them. But never fear: People are coming out of the woodwork to offer solutions.
- Peggy Noonan has a sure-fire fix. Chris Christie and Bobby Jindal have some ideas. Basically everyone has a solution.
- It does seem kind of obvious: Maybe try supporting things the people want, and then they'll vote for you? But that's not the GOP way. You see, the problem is not them. It's you. Time for Plan B!
- What is Republicans' grand plan to make sure they don't suffer the same fate as the Know-Nothings and the Whigs? Make sure the ever-shrinking number of people who do support them have more say than everyone else.
- It's a move straight from the John C. Calhoun playbook.
- Enter Virginia. The state is trying to split up Electoral College votes by congressional district instead of winner-take-all, a system which of course benefits the Grand Old Party by default. Wherever there's big tracks of sparsely inhabited land, you can bet there are Republicans.
- We'll give you one guess as to who would have won the presidential election if this plan was replicated in the swing states and in place last year.
- The Commonwealth isn't alone. Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania—all featuring Republican state control and swing state pedigrees—are toying with an Electoral College makeover. Some are pushing to take the idea national.
- Liberals are apoplectic, and crossing their fingers that this ridiculous ploy brings the National Vote Project back from the dead.
- Sean Trende thinks the plan will lead to more ameoba-shaped districts: "Gerrymandering doesn’t keep me awake at night as much as it does some people, and its effects are overstated, but at the same time, I don’t think it’s a good thing." Not the most ringing condemnation, but we'll take what we can get.
- The state house speaker in Florida, a Republican, is not a fan either. "To me, that's like saying in a football game, 'We should have only three quarters, because we were winning after three quarters and the beat us in the fourth. I don't think we need to change the rules of the game, I think we need to get better."
What We're Writing
- Abby Rapoport checks out Texans' response to their campus shooting on Tuesday, which was, predictably, to just arm everybody. Now if there was only a way to give a gun a gun...
- Scott Lemieux clues us into the impetus behind filibuster nonreform. As far as we can tell, it's an intense congressional fear of good government.
What We're Reading
- Department of Bummers: Herman Cain says he won't run for Georgia's open U.S. Senate seat.
- Women in combat? Not over Senator Jim Inhofe's (darn near) dead body!
- Reince Priebus, re-elected RNC chair, envisions an "an exciting party that smiles."
- The Fix takes a moment to mourn the Congress's imminent loss of one greatly named Senator, Saxby Chambliss.
- The Atlantic cheers women's entrance into the storied and gloried ranks of war. And then gets to whether or not soldiering should be our ultimate test of equality.
- Fracking supporters determined that shale gas wasn't dirty enough and adapted the technique for radioactive uranium mining. Coolest part? This is not The Onion.
- Simon Johnson explains the debt ceiling with a bathtub, and we finally get it.
- Vice President Joe Biden got on a Google Plus hangout to tell people: "If you want to keep people away in an earthquake, buy some shotgun shells." That's all.
Poll of the Day
Pollsters at Rasmussen have found that 59 percent of Americans strongly support the continued construction of Keystone XL. (Sarah Laskow has the story on what has happened with the pipeline in the past year). Maybe the pollster, more rah-rah-red than most, should have been more clearer to his respondents that the pipeline would be carrying dirty-to-extract and dirtier-to-refine tar-sands oil from Canada across the U.S. and not pumping always-smooth Keystone Xtra Light into their cozies.