Shocker.

(The Hill) — The Department of Justice offered a defense Thursday for President Obama’s controversial decision to make several recess appointments while Congress was holding pro forma sessions.

In a memo, Justice argued the pro forma sessions held every third day in the Senate do not constitute a functioning body that can render advice and consent on the president’s nominees. It said the president acted consistently under the law by making the appointments.

“Although the Senate will have held pro forma sessions regularly from January 3 to January 23, in our judgment, those sessions do not interrupt the intrasession recess in a manner that would preclude the president from determining that the Senate remains unavailable throughout to ‘receive communications from the president or participate as a body in making appointments,’” Virginia Seitz, assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel, wrote in the memo dated Jan. 6.

The Office of Legal Counsel concluded the president has authority to make recess appointments during a recess and that Congress can only prevent the president from making such appointments “by remaining continuously in session and available to receive and act on nominations,” not by holding pro forma sessions.

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Update: Super shady.

POLITICO’s Josh Gerstein notes that the Department of Justice memo authorizing the four recess appointments,including Richard Cordray to the consumer bureau, is dated after President Obama announced the decision.

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