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Recess Picks Still Open Question

White House Has No Shortage of Stalled Nominees

Saul Loeb/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
After the recess appointments of Richard Cordray (above) as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and of three new members to the National Labor Relations Board, the White House is leaving the door open to other possible recess appointments.

After showing last week that President Barack Obama is not afraid to defy GOP filibusters of his nominees, the White House is leaving the door open to more recess appointments — some of which could continue to help him showcase his campaign theme that he is the remedy to Capitol Hill's gridlock.

Already having installed Richard Cordray as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and appointed three National Labor Relations Board members, Obama could still choose to tap a number of stalled nominees in his effort to position himself as the champion of the middle class and consumers — the same theme struck in last week's appointments.

While the White House isn't talking about possible recess appointments, White House spokesman Eric Schultz suggested last week that GOP blockades of Obama nominations may continue to be fair game.

"We are not going to publicly speculate about recess appointments," Schultz said. "But Senate Republicans have not been shy about their determination to block the president's nominees and policy priorities. It is becoming more and more apparent that Republican obstructionism is an overtly political maneuver to thwart the president's agenda. These posts are important to fill, these individuals are exceptionally well-qualified, and we will push for their confirmations."

Schultz refused to discuss specific posts, but with 181 nominations pending in the Senate — many for six months or more — Obama has plenty of nominees from which to choose.

After last week's move, speculation spread that Obama might replace Federal Housing Finance Agency Acting Director Edward DeMarco, who oversees mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Democrats have criticized DeMarco for stalling relief to homeowners, but the White House has given no indication that it would use a recess appointment to replace him. In 2010, Obama nominated North Carolina Banking Commissioner Joseph Smith to replace DeMarco, but Senate Banking ranking member Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) led the charge against Smith's confirmation.

At his press conference in November announcing that he would retire from Congress, House Financial Services ranking member Barney Frank (D-Mass.) described DeMarco as "no great friend to the Democrats' cause; Obama keeps trying to fire him, and the Senate protects him."

Installing a new head of the FHFA could theoretically enable the president to dramatically expand mortgage refinancing for millions of homeowners before the elections — but that would surely create an even greater outcry from the GOP.

The White House has dismissed the prospects of a backlash on the CFPB and NLRB, arguing that Republicans would lose any battle if they blocked items the president wants — like the payroll tax cut extension — in a fit of pique over last week's recess appointments.

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