A more frequent publishing of Rich Galen's take on politics, culture and general modern annoyances. This is in addition to MULLINGS which is published Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays at

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Recess Appointments

  • I know the Conservative ecosystem is in a tizzy about President Obama's making 15 recess appointments as soon as the Senate packed up for its Spring recess, but it is allowed by the Constitution and was utilized by President George W. Bush.

  • From Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution:
    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.

  • One of the most famous recess appointments made by President Bush was that of John Bolton to be Ambassador to the United Nations. Democrats had filibustered Bolton's confirmation, so the President waited until the beginning of the August recess in 2005 to appoint him.

  • Ambassador Bolton was not likely to win Senate confirmation when his recess appointment expired, so he resigned effective the date of the adjournment of the 109th Congress in December, 2006.

  • After the GOP lost control of the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) prevented any further recess appointments by simply not having any recesses. When the House and Senate were on a break, one Democratic Senator would take the floor every three days to conduct a pro forma session during which no business was transacted, but no recess appointments could be made.

  • One person who did not receive a recess appointment was the President's second attempt to get an administrator of the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) confirmed. This time the guy was a retired Army two-star general named Robert A. Harding.

  • Seems that MG Harding (Ret.) had a company which won contracts with the Pentagon totaling as much as $200 million. One of them, according to, was a "$54 million contract to provide the Defense Intelligence Agency with civilian interrogators."

  • Ok. He knew something about that kind of work, so maybe the contract was legit.

  • But then, according to the Politico piece by Kasie Hunt:
    The government terminated the contract after only a year and ultimately paid Harding's outfit about $6 million, triggering an audit that revealed the company had overbilled the government by at least $860,000.

    When the firm appealed the audit … negotiations resulted in Harding Security Associates repaying an additional $1.8 million to the government - a total worth more than one-third of the total contract cost."

  • Getting fired after one year and failing at least one audit wasn't what got my attention.

  • This was: According to a Washington Post piece yesterday, Major General Harding "as the owner of Harding Security Associates received a consulting contract worth almost $100 million from the Army after certifying he was a "service disabled veteran" as part of a set-aside for firms owned by service disabled vets.

  • That's good, the government giving preference to disabled veterans. Who could be opposed to that?

  • Oh. His disability? Swallow your coffee first.

  • Ready?

  • Sleep Apnea.

  • Over 37,000 American service members have been killed or injured in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11. How many, do you suppose, were send home because of sleep apnea?

  • And, in any case, how could sleep apnea possibly be defined as a service-related condition?

  • Turns out sleep apnea is a little more serious than what I shouted when I read the headline in the Washington Post yesterday morning:
    "He got $200 million in contracts because of being a heavy snorer?"

  • Which scared the cat, awoke the Mullings Director of Standards and Practices, and so was not a good way to start a Sunday in any conceivable dimension.

  • Harding would have skated on his bad bookkeeping on that $54 million contract, there would have been sixteen recess appointments announced last weekend, and every TSA office in every airport in the land would have been sent a color photo of Major General Robert Harding (Ret.) as the TSA's new leader.

  • Alas, Harding bailed at the end of the week after that difficult hearing and, according to the Post, "after The Washington Post raised questions with the White House on Friday about his disabilities status."

  • Who's vetting these people, Michaele and Tareq Salahi?

  • Remember that questionnaire that everyone was supposed to fill out before they could be considered for a job in the Obama Administration during the transition? The final question was:
    "Provide any other information that could be a possible source of embarrassment to you, your family, or the President-elect."

  • Maybe they ought to put that one back in.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links to the Congressional Research Service explanation of Recess Appointments, and to the Politico and Washington Post stories about Major General Robert B. "Snorey" Harding (Ret.).

    Also a Mullfoto that may confuse you as much as it did me and a Catchy Caption of the Day.


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