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Obama to make recess appointments to 15 administration posts

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Obama aide on appointments
  • Obama on Saturday announced he would make 15 recess appointments
  • Some administration appointments have been held up for months in the Senate
  • Obama says Republicans stalling "in the interest of scoring political points"

Washington (CNN) -- President Obama announced Saturday he will make recess appointments of 15 nominees who are awaiting confirmation by the Senate.

"The United States Senate has the responsibility to approve or disapprove of my nominees" to administration posts, Obama said in a written statement that also named the 15 individuals. "But if, in the interest of scoring political points, Republicans in the Senate refuse to exercise that responsibility, I must act in the interest of the American people and exercise my authority to fill these positions on an interim basis.

"Most of the men and women whose appointments I am announcing today were approved by Senate committees months ago, yet still await a vote of the Senate. At a time of economic emergency, two top appointees to the Department of Treasury have been held up for nearly six months. I simply cannot allow partisan politics to stand in the way of the basic functioning of government."

Obama senior adviser David Axelrod told CNN's Candy Crowley on Saturday that the Senate had declined to vote on five of former President George W. Bush's appointments at this point in his term, compared to 77 delayed appointments for Obama.

"The Republican Party has taken a position where they're going to try and slow and block progress on all fronts, whether it's legislation or appointments," Axelrod said in an interview aired Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union."

The Constitution gives a president the power to fill vacancies without the Senate's confirmation when the legislative body is in recess.

"The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session," states Article II, Section 2.

Such appointees can serve without confirmation through the rest of the current session of Congress.

President Clinton made 139 recess appointments during his two terms in office, and President George W. Bush made more than 170, according to the Congressional Research Service.

In a blog post about the appointments, White House deputy communications director Jen Psaki highlighted two other federal agencies.

"The roadblocks we've seen in the Senate have left some government agencies like the National Labor Relations Board and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission impaired in fulfilling their mission," Psaki wrote. "These agencies can now get back to working for the American people."

Republicans and business groups on Saturday quickly denounced one of Obama's appointments to the labor relations board.

Craig Becker, currently the associate general counsel with the Service Employees International Union and the AFL-CIO, is one of two appointees to the board, which oversees relations between unions and employers. Republicans, along with two Democrats, effectively blocked his appointment in February.

Obama appointment to labor board sparks opposition

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid also welcomed the appointments Saturday.

"Regrettably, Senate Republicans have dedicated themselves to a failed strategy to cripple President Obama's economic initiatives by stalling key Administration nominees at every turn," said Reid spokesman Jim Manley. "With the recess appointments of these highly qualified individuals, President Obama has shown that he is serious about getting the right team in place to create jobs and protect the American work force."

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Besides Becker, the other 14 recess appointees are:

• Jeffrey Goldstein, undersecretary for domestic finance, Department of the Treasury

• Michael F. Mundaca, assistant secretary for tax policy, Department of the Treasury

• Eric L. Hirschhorn, undersecretary for export administration and head of the Bureau of Industry and Security, Department of Commerce

• Michael Punke, deputy trade representative - Geneva, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative

• Francisco "Frank" J. Sanchez, undersecretary for international trade, Department of Commerce

• Islam A. Siddiqui, chief agricultural negotiator, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative

• Alan D. Bersin, commissioner, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Department of Homeland Security

• Rafael Borras, undersecretary for management, Department of Homeland Security

• Jill Long Thompson, Farm Credit Administration Board

• Mark Gaston Pearce, National Labor Relations Board

• Jacqueline A. Berrien, chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

• Chai R. Feldblum, commissioner, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

• Victoria A. Lipnic, commissioner, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

• P. David Lopez, general counsel, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission