Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Senate to stay in session to thwart Bush

WASHINGTON --Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Wednesday that he would keep Congress in session over the holiday break solely to block President Bush from making recess appointments. It was an apt ending to one of the most bitterly partisan congressional sessions in memory.

"We're going to go into pro forma session so the president can't appoint people that we think objectionable," Reid said on the Senate floor as the chamber prepared to wrap up business for the year.

The Senate must confirm major presidential appointments and judicial nominations, a constant source of confrontation between the White House and Senate Democrats. But when the Senate is off, as it will be for the rest of the month and much of January, the president can make recess appointments that are not subject to confirmation hearings. These appointees can serve until the end of the congressional session, which at this point would be until Bush leaves office.

The move affects congressionally passed legislation as well. The Constitution gives Bush 10 days after passage to sign or veto such bills. If he does not take action by that deadline during a period when Congress is in session, the legislation becomes law. In cases when the deadline passes during adjournment, the legislation is "pocket-vetoed."

Maintaining pro-forma session is an unglamorous job. One senator stands sentry every few days, opening the chamber for business -- but not doing any -- often for less than a minute. For the upcoming recess, that means someone must open the session about 11 times..........

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