Republicans called the recess appointments a power grab by the White House and questioned their legitimacy. They also said they expect a lawsuit challenging the appointments to be filed by companies that are regulated by the agencies. A handful of pro-business groups have already filed lawsuits against the NLRB appointments, including the National Federation of Independent Business.
In order to prevent recess appointments from President George W. Bush, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pioneered the idea that both chambers would meet in pro forma sessions.
Bush never challenged the pro forma sessions, but Obama did with his appointments. He said that the pro forma sessions were a gimmick and that Congress was actually in recess, giving him the opportunity to make the appointments.
Republicans argue that Congress was in session and that it’s not up to the White House to determine what counts as an official meeting of the legislative branch. They also cite the Dec. 23 pro forma session in which the Senate agreed to a two-month extension of the payroll tax holiday as evidence that business did get conducted.
Democrats said that without a leader, the CFPB would not be able to fulfill its consumer protection mandate and therefore the situation warranted taking the step against pro forma sessions to make a recess appointment.
Democrats also said that GOP opposition to a CFPB chief was unprecedented and amounted to sour grapes over losing the legislative battle to create the agency.
Republicans had said their opposition did not have to do with Cordray but with how the agency was set up. They sought changes that would create a board to lead the agency and require it to be funded through the regular appropriations process.
Meanwhile, the Senate is expected to vote this week on a request from Obama to raise the debt ceiling by $1.2 trillion as Congress prepares to hear the State of the Union address.
With the president set to speak Tuesday evening and Senate Republicans scheduled to go on their annual retreat Wednesday, the debt-ceiling vote is likely to come Thursday.
Under the deal reached in August, the debt limit will be raised by $2.1 trillion in separate increases requested by the president, and Congress would vote whether to reject the request.
The rejection resolution is not expected to pass in the Democratic-led Senate. The Republican-run House passed the resolution last week 239-176.
The August agreement gives Congress the opportunity to reject the request, but the president would likely veto the rejection and get the increase anyway.
Since August, the debt ceiling has been raised by $900 billion, with Congress failing to block the president’s previous requests.
A Republican aide said that it’s striking that the president is seeking a $1.2 trillion increase in the debt ceiling the same week he is coming to Congress to ask voters for another term.
In order to avoid default, voters “are forced to give [Obama] the first, but there is no way they will give him the second,” the aide added.
A Democratic aide said the president’s message is expected to be about “fairness and jobs,” and that Republicans have been on the wrong side of the issue by protecting upper income earners at the expense of the middle class.