WASHINGTON - Fed up with waiting, President Barack Obama announced yesterday he would bypass a vacationing Senate and name 15 people to key administration jobs, his first time wielding the blunt tool known as the recess appointment.
The White House dropped the news in a release Saturday, with Obama at Camp David and lawmakers home in their districts. Obama accused Republicans of holding up nominees for months solely for political advantage.
"I simply cannot allow partisan politics to stand in the way of the basic functioning of government," he 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 who had blocked his nomination asserted he would bring a radical pro-union agenda to the job, and they urged Obama not to appoint him over the recess.
Obama went ahead, while also choosing a second member for the labor board so four of its five slots will be filled. The labor board, which referees labor-management disputes, has had most of its seats vacant for more than two years, raising questions about the legality of its rulings.
Overall, the appointments will take place through next week, the White House said. News of Becker's appointment drew the quickest ire from Republicans.
Presidents from both parties have made recess appointments, which circumvent the Senate's authority to confirm nominees. George W. Bush made more than 170 in his two terms. Bill Clinton made nearly 140.
Obama also filled two posts at the Treasury Department: Jeffrey Goldstein as undersecretary for domestic finance, and Michael Mundaca as assistant secretary for tax policy. He also named four people to the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, which has also been operating without a quorum.