President Barack Obama used his weekly address Saturday to rip Congress for blocking his nominees, focusing his ire on Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah.
Earlier in the week, Lee vowed to oppose all of the president’s picks for open judicial and federal positions to protest the way Obama skirted the Senate to fill key jobs at the National Labor Relations Board and the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
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"One senator gumming up the whole works for the entire country is certainly not what our founding fathers envisioned," Obama said, not specifically identifying Lee but leaving no doubt which senator he meant to single out.
In his address, the president cited a comment Lee’s spokesman, Brian Phillips, gave to Fox News, saying the plan was to "delay and slow the process in order to get the president’s attention."
"We weren’t sent here to wage perpetual political campaigns against each other. We were sent here to serve the American people," Obama said. "And they deserve better than gridlock and games."
This dispute stems from the president’s decision to use his recess appointment powers in early January. Senators were not at work in Washington but the Senate was still holding "pro forma" sessions as a tactic to block Obama from appointing people in their absence.
White House lawyers challenge the legitimacy of the pro forma sessions and Obama went ahead and placed Richard Cordray at the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Republicans, including Lee, have said Cordray is qualified for the position, but they have held up his nomination to protest the very creation of the bureau, which they feel has too much power to regulate such things as credit card agreements and payday loans.
Lee spoke before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday to argue that Obama’s actions were clearly out of bounds.
"Given this president’s blatant and egregious disregard both for proper constitutional procedures and the Senate’s unquestioned role in such appointments, I find myself duty-bound to resist the consideration and approval of additional nominees until the president takes steps to remedy the situation," Lee said.
And he made it clear that he wasn’t backing down on Saturday, saying "the president has consistently shown almost no regard for the constitutional limitations placed on his office. That is why I must take a stand."
The senator hasn’t explained how he plans to hold up the president’s nominees or if he would make any exceptions, say for David Nuffer, who Obama appointed to fill a federal judicial vacancy in Utah.
Obama said no party is blameless in the battle over nominees and he called on the Senate to create a new rule that would require a vote on all of his judicial and public service selections within 90 days.
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