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April, 9, 2010

Chai Feldblum joins EEOC in set of recess appointments

Washington, D.C.--In a move sure to draw criticism from Republican leaders with short memories, President Barack Obama on March 27 announced the appointment of 15 people to government posts.

The appointments were made during legislative recess, an end-run around Republican senators who have tried to block the nominations from going through.

Among the newly-minted government appointees is Chai Feldblum, who is now the first openly-gay Equal Employment Opportunity Commission member. She was one of the people who helped draft the Americans with Disabilities Act in the 1990s, and her nomination to the post has been languishing in the Senate for over six months, along with dozens of others.

It is established practice for presidents to wait until legislative recess to push through appointments that have been stalled by the opposing party, and the other party invariably criticizes the move. George W. Bush used the maneuver many times, as did his predecessor, Bill Clinton.

However, the White House statement on the appointments points out that there are currently 217 nominees pending, averaging 101 days since their nominations, including “two top appointees to the Department of Treasury,” both of whom have been held up for over six months.

By this point in Bush’s presidency, he had made 15 recess appointments, although only five of his nominations had been held up in the Senate. He preemptively appointed some people during legislative recesses.

“The United States Senate has the responsibility to approve or disapprove of my nominees,” Obama said in the statement. “But if, in the interest of scoring political points, Republicans in the Senate refuse to exercise that responsibility, I must act in the interest of the American people and exercise my authority to fill these positions on an interim basis.”

Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution gives the president the power to unilaterally fill vacancies that occur during recesses of the Senate. That power has been interpreted to mean he can appoint nominees whose approval has been held up in the Senate. The appointments are valid until the end of the current legislative session.

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