The Thinker: Rich Galen


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A Session on Sessions

Rich Galen

Thursday July 27, 2017

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  • To be honest, I never much thought about Jeff Sessions when he was a Senator from Alabama. To be further honest, I'm not certain I would have voted for his confirmation as Attorney General had I been in the U.S. Senate this past February


    Sen. Sessions was confirmed 52-47 with one Democrat, Joe Manchion of West Virginia voting "Aye," no Republicans voting "No," and Sessions himself voting "Present."

    This was not a confirmation that required a tie-breaking vote from V.P. Mike Pence.


  • Now, however, I am a huge Jeff Sessions fan.

  • Sessions did not tell the truth about having met with Russians (or at least A Russian on multiple occasions) during his confirmation hearing. There is no excuse for that.

  • And, for that, he had to recuse himself from any Federal investigation of the Trump campaign (which are under the umbrella of the Department of Justice). Merriam-Webster defines "recuse" thus:
    "To disqualify (oneself) as judge in a particular case; to remove (oneself) from participation to avoid a conflict of interest."

  • Wait. That means, even if Sessions had told the truth about the meetings, he would have had to recuse himself from an investigation of the Trump campaign because he was a senior participant in the Trump campaign.

  • In fact, Sessions was not just the first Republican Senator to endorse Trump, he was the only Republican Senator to endorse Trump at least through early May of last year.

  • Yet, Donald Trump has taken to what is known as "Tweet-Shaming" Sessions just about every day on Twitter. Trump wants Sessions to quit. As of this writing, it looks very much like Sessions is going to make Trump fire him.

  • Trump's bullying has had exactly the opposite effect on Sessions' former colleagues as he might have expected. Even Democrats who voted to deny him the Attorney-General post are taking a positive interest now - not the policies he's backing, but the backbone he's demonstrating.

  • Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said:
    "Let me state for the record now, before this scheme gains wings, Democrats will never go along with the recess appointment if that situation arises."

  • Under what is known as "regular order" the President nominates someone for a high-level job requiring Senate confirmation. That person goes through one or more confirmation hearings in relevant committees. His or her name comes to the floor of the Senate for a vote and the Senate either votes to confirm the nomination or to deny.

  • This can be done with high drama as with Sessions and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, or by voice vote for non-controversial, lower-level appointments.

  • Another way to get a high-level person in office is for the President to make a "recess appointment" as provided in the U.S. Constitution's Article II, Section 2, Clause 3:
    "The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session."

  • A recess appointment, as the name implies, has to be made when the Congress is in recess. The Constitution requires that neither chamber can recess for more than three days without the consent of the other.

  • That means the House can't go out and stay out thus avoiding having to deal with legislation sent over by the Senate. If they agree, they can, and have left for extended vacations. But, not recently.

  • To thwart Presidential recess appointments (which last until the end of the Congress during which they were made, unless confirmed or otherwise vacated) the Senate has taken to coming back into session every three days in what is known as a "pro-forma session."

  • A Senator who is (a) in the majority and (b) in town will gavel the Senate to order, thereby establishing a session, gavel the session closed and head for the golf course.

  • Barack Obama tried to slide some recess appointments into one of those three days off, but the U.S. Supreme Court slapped him down deciding that 10 days off was an appropriate length of time to establish a recess, not three.

  • It is hard to see how Trump can get a replacement for Sessions confirmed if he is fired, or even if he quits. It is equally hard to see how Trump could squeeze in a recess appointment.

  • So, to his continued annoyance Trump may be stuck with Jeff Sessions for some time to come.

  • Thus, endeth the lesson on Sessions.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to the Schumer article and to the SCOTUS ruling on recess appointments.

    The Mullfoto is of a First World Problem: A bad seat on an airplane.

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