Several things should be noted: 1) Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) first instituted the pro forma blocking device in 2007-08 to prevent President George W. Bush from making recess appointments, 2) Reid reportedly did so at the instigation of that staunch defender of the Constitution, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), 3) Bush did not defy the Senate action despite the OLC opinion that he could, 4) this Congress introduced and passed (by voice vote), and the president signed into law, the short-term payroll tax holiday bill, all on the pro forma session day of Dec. 23, 2011, giving lie to the presidentís claim that no legislative business is conducted on such days, and 5) the courts have historically upheld Congressí right to interpret its own rules on such matters.
For any president to pick a fight with Congress over such a delicate issue in an election year may be a clever partisan ploy, but it is both constitutionally dangerous and politically damaging to inter-branch relations and the confirmation process generally.
Don Wolfensberger is a Congressional scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center, a resident scholar with the Bipartisan Policy Center, and former staff director of the House Rules Committee.
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