President Obama Begins August Vacation with Recess Appointments

Aug 19, 2010 7:29pm

President Obama made four recess appointments today. Likely to cause the most controversy is the recess appointment of Maria del Carmen Aponte to be chief of the U.S. Mission to El Salvador.

Her nomination had been held up for more than eight months by Republicans seeking more information about the reason behind her decision to withdraw her nomination as ambassador to the Dominican Republic during the presidency of Bill Clinton — that Roberto Tamayo, the man with whom she lived in 1980s, allegedly had ties to Cuban intelligence.

White House spokesman Tommy Vietor criticized the “unfounded allegations” against Ms. Aponte which he said “have been thoroughly investigated by the FBI and Diplomatic Security. She has been subjected to complete background investigations prior to her 1998 and 2009 nominations and received a top secret clearance on both occasions.  Based on these investigations, it is clear that these allegations are completely groundless and politically-motivated.  Ms. Aponte is strongly supported by many Cuban-Americans, including the Senate’s staunchest critic of Cuba, Senator Robert Menendez.”

The other three recess appointments from today are Elisabeth Hagen, undersecretary for food safety at the Department of Agriculture; Winslow Sargeant, chief counsel of advocacy for the Small Business Administration; and Richard Sorian, assistant secretary for public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services.

The president has argued that GOP obstructionism makes recess appointments necessary. “At a time when our nation faces so many pressing challenges, I urge members of the Senate to stop playing politics with our highly qualified nominees and fulfill their responsibilities of advice and consent,” he said in a statement today. “Until they do, I reserve the right to act within my authority to do what is best for the American people.”

The president has used his presidential prerogative to appoint some nominees proving controversial, such as Dr. Donald Berwick to be head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

-        Jake Tapper

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