WASHINGTON -- A group of 39 Republican senators signed on to a letter Friday promising to join lawsuits against President Obama's recent recess appointments of consumer finance watchdog Richard Cordray and three National Labor Relations Board members.
Obama made the appointments on Jan. 4 while senators were on their winter break, but were still holding "pro forma" sessions in order to prevent such appointments. The move broke precedent, but it was equally unprecedented for the House to refuse to let the Senate adjourn, or for senators to block a nominee because they don't like an agency -- in this case, the newly formed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Republicans immediately charged that the move was unconstitutional, and are now promising to join the legal fight with a letter released Friday:
We the undersigned believe that President Obama’s January 4, 2012 recess appointments of individuals to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and National Labor Relations Board were unprecedented and unconstitutional. We intend jointly to file an amicus brief challenging the constitutionality of President Obama’s appointments to the National Labor Relations Board and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who announced the message, suggested Obama was attempting to take on royal powers.
“American democracy was born out of a rejection of the monarchies of Western Europe, anchored by limited government and separation of powers," he said in a statement. "We refuse to stand by as this President arrogantly casts aside our Constitution and defies the will of the American people under the election-year guise of defending them.”
The only Republican senators who did not sign the letter were Scott Brown (Mass.), who backed Cordray's appointment, Dean Heller (Nev.), Thad Cochran (Miss.), Olympia Snowe (Maine), Jeff Sessions (Ala.), Richard Shelby (Ala.), Roger Wicker (Miss.) and Mark Kirk (Ill.), who is currently recovering from a stroke.
Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), responded that if Republicans were to sign on to the lawsuits, they would be suing to help financiers.
"If Republicans want to file lawsuits to protect Wall Street, that's their business," Jentleson said. "Democrats would rather spend our time working to create jobs and help the middle class, and we hope that at some point Republicans will drop their obstruction and join us."