Obama Makes Controversial Appointments from Hawaii Vacation

Dec 29, 2010 6:25pm

From Sunlen Miller, Kirit Radia and Yunji de Nies:

From vacation in Hawaii, President Obama has used his recess appointment power to fill six administration posts, some controversial, including naming Washington attorney James Cole as deputy attorney general and Robert Ford as U.S. ambassador to Syria.

The White House justified the recess appointments, running around the Senate confirmation process, because the positions have been left vacant for too long.

Read more about the appointments HERE.

"All administrations face delays in getting some of their nominees confirmed, but the extent of Republican obstruction of Obama nominees is unprecedented," a White House official said.

Among the appointments are four U.S. ambassadors — to Azerbaijan, the Czech Republic, Syria and Turkey — whose nominations were stalled in the Senate.

The appointment of Ford as ambassador to Syria raised concerns on the Hill that such a move would be rewarding Damascus for bad behavior.

Frank Ricciardone had his nomination as envoy to Turkey held up by Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., who now has retired from the Senate, over concerns about his approach to human rights when ambassador to Egypt.

Matt Bryza, the nominee as ambassador to Azerbaijan, was held up by Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer of California and Robert Menendez of New Jersey over criticism from an Armenian-American group over the Obama administration's opposition to a Congressional resolution condemning the 1915 Armenian genocide.

Norm Eisen, nominated as ambassador to the Czech Republic, was formerly the administration's "ethics czar," and had been held up by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, over an entirely unrelated issue — his role in the firing of an inspector general for the Corporation for National and Community Service in June 2009.

Cole's nomination as deputy attorney general had been held up for months over his ties to AIG, with Republicans questioning his role as an independent consultant prior to the company's near-collapse in 2008.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, praised the Cole's appointment, and said the delays in considering his nomination were unnecessary and wrong.

"Despite repeated requests, for more than five months, Senate Republicans refused to debate the nomination of Jim Cole to be the deputy attorney general," Leahy said in a paper statement. "I have no question that Jim Cole is highly qualified to fill this vital law enforcement post. His nomination received bipartisan support from public officials and from high-ranking veterans of the Justice Department, and I believe that he would have been confirmed by the Senate had his nomination been given an up-or-down vote."

The White House, arguing that the delay in confirming its nominees has been unprecedented, said that the six nominees were waiting a total of 888 days, more than two-and-a-half years, to start their jobs.

A president can make recess appointments when the Senate is adjourned for the session, and the appointments last until the end of the next session.

- Sunlen Miller, Kirit Radia and Yunji de Nies

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