Congress recesses – well, not quite

While Congress is on a Memorial-week break this week, it will not be completely quiet on Capitol Hill. A handful of Democrats will be on duty – gaveling in and out in a matter of seconds to ensure that Congress does not officially go into recess.

Why? They are once again blocking President George W. Bush’s ability to make recess appointments – assignments to posts in absence of Congress. Though such recess appointments would only be good for a matter of months (until the end of the current administration) lawmakers have coordinated to put a stop to that practice last fall with its pro forma sessions.

“I’m willing to do it,” said Ohio Democrat Sen. Sherrod Brown Friday when he gaveled in and out while all his colleagues were out of town. “We’re not going to let them get away with that kind of abuse of power.”

Bush had made 165 recess appointments during his tenure when Congress began thwarting him last fall. By contract, President Bill Clinton made 140 recess appointments in eight years, President George H. W. Bush made 77 in four years, and President Ronald Reagan made 243 in eight years.

Other lawmakers are slated to hold pro forma sessions throughout the week to keep Congress from remaining inactive for more than three days.


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