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Senate GOP Considers Options on Recess Appointments

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo

Senate Republicans at their retreat this week are expected to consider ways to take a stand against the White House and Senate Democrats after four controversial recess appointments were made earlier this month, Senate Republicans said today.

“It’s going to be discussed” at the Republican retreat Wednesday, said Sen. Chuck Grassley, ranking member of the Judiciary Committee. “I don’t know what’s going to be done, but it can’t be just Chuck Grassley ... and a couple of other people.”

On the Senate floor, Grassley said that President Barack Obama’s recent recess appointments are “a matter of concern to my Republican colleagues, as it should be for all Senators; we must consider how we will respond to the president and restore a constitutional balance.”

He called for long-serving Senate Democrats to show concern about the damage to the institution, invoking the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), who was an ardent protector of the Senate’s power.

“Where is a member of the president’s party today who is like a more recent Senate institutionalist, Robert C. Byrd?” Grassley asked. “He defended the powers of the Senate when presidents overreached, even presidents of his own party.”

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), a member of the Judiciary Committee, also said he expects the issue to be discussed at the retreat. The issue could also come up at the first-of-the-year weekly GOP caucus lunch scheduled for Tuesday.

The Senate GOP is set to meet at Mount Vernon on Wednesday for its annual retreat. Ostensibly, GOP Senators could look to slow progress on White House or other Democratic initiatives, but no Members have yet announced that they plan to do so.

The Republicans’ comments came as the Senate approved the nomination, 74-16, of Nebraska Supreme Court Judge John M. Gerrard to be U.S. district judge for the District of Nebraska.

The vote on Gerrard is the first nomination vote since Obama appointed Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and filled three slots, including one Republican spot, on the National Labor Relations Board.

Republicans noted that the Gerrard vote was set by a unanimous consent agreement Dec. 17, before the controversial recess appointments, which were put in place Jan. 4.

“With regard to this nomination I hope my colleagues understand that even though we are proceeding under regular order today, it is only because this unanimous consent agreement was locked in before the president demonstrated his monarchy mentality by making those appointments,” Grassley said. “I am not going to hold this nominee accountable for the outrageous actions of the president.”

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