07/27/2010 04:09 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Gibbs: Whether Obama Makes Recess Appointments Depends On McConnell

The Obama administration hinted strongly on Tuesday that it would use the president's power to appoint officials without congressional confirmation during the upcoming August recess should Senate Republicans not confirm these appointments first.

Speaking shortly after President Obama and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) privately discussed -- among other matters -- the lethargic pace of judicial nominations, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs strongly criticized what he considers unprecedented levels of GOP obstructionism.

Gibbs said that the conversation between the two officials (which occurred during a larger meeting with congressional leadership) was "somewhat pointed." And when asked whether the president would exercise his right to make recess appointments once Congress leaves for the remainder of the summer, he noticeably placed responsibility for that decision with McConnell.

"[T]he president said that his decisions on recess appointments will be made based on the decisions the Senate minority made in clearing the nominees that this government needs in order to conduct everyday business.... It is up to the minority leader in the Senate to determine the degree to which action is undertaken on important nominees."

"[T]he president was, I think, somewhat pointed in discussing with the minority leader the notion that the confirmation process has broken down to a point that I think we really haven't seen in Congress dealing with the executive branch ever," Gibbs added.

The comments were fairly explicit for a White House that tends to hesitate before hammering congressional Republicans. Still, for progressive judicial activists, it would be hard not to recognize that they fell short of an unveiled threat. As did Gibb's discussion of the increasing chatter within the Democratic caucus on filibuster reform.

"I have not seen any of the specific proposals," the press secreatry said, when asked by the Huffington Post about statements made by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in support of revamping the institutional rules of the Senate. "It is not something that came up in [Tuesday's] meeting."