Washington Fed up with waiting, President Barack Obama announced Saturday he would bypass a vacationing Senate and name 15 people to key administration jobs, wielding for the first time the blunt political tool known as the recess appointment.
The move immediately deepened the divide between the Democratic president and Republicans in the Senate following a long, bruising fight over health care. Obama revealed his decision by blistering Republicans, accusing them of holding up nominees for months solely to try to score a political advantage on him.
“I simply cannot allow partisan politics to stand in the way of the basic functioning of government,” Obama said in a statement.
The 15 appointees to boards and agencies include the contentious choice of union lawyer Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board. Republicans had blocked his nomination on grounds he would bring a radical pro-union agenda to the job, and they called on Obama not to appoint Becker over the recess.
Obama went ahead anyway, while also choosing a second member for the labor board so that four of its five slots will be filled. The board, which referees labor-management disputes, has had a majority of its seats vacant for more than two years, slowing its work and raising questions about the legality of its rulings.
Overall, Obama’s appointments will take place throughout the week, allowing people to make the transition to their new jobs, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.