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Obama Blames Staffing Problems on GOP, Threatens Recess Appointments

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President Obama, struggling to staff his administration after a year in office, is blaming Republican efforts to "delay and obstruct" his nominees in the Senate -- and threatening to counteract those tactics with recess appointments.

Over 200 nominations are estimated to still be pending in the Senate, and Obama blames the minority party's "obstinacy," which he says is "rooted not in substantive disagreements but in political expedience."

"I respect the Senate's role to advise and consent, but for months, qualified, non-controversial nominees for critical positions in government -- often positions related to our national security -- have been held up despite having overwhelming support," Obama said in a news conference Tuesday.

Obama cited his pick to head the General Services Administration, Martha N. Johnson, who was confirmed by a 96-0 vote in the Senate last week -- nine months after Obama nominated her for the position.

"That's not advise and consent. That's delay and obstruct," he said, warning that if the Senate "does not act to confirm these nominees, I will consider making several recess appointments during the upcoming recess."

Republicans note Democrats sharply criticized the practice when President Bush used it.

"Sen. Ted Kennedy at the time said it was a devious maneuver to evade the constitutional requirements," said Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming.

But now Democrats have a different view.

"I have told the president enough is enough," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said. "He has the right as president of the United States to do recess appointments."

Other presidents have used the practice when faced with resistance from the opposition party.

During his two terms, Ronald Reagan made 240 of them. George H.W. Bush made 77 during his one term. Bill Clinton made 139 in two terms and George W. Bush made 171.

The Obama administration has announced nominees for 569 posts requiring Senate confirmation, according to the White House Transition Group, an independent organization that tracks such positions. The Senate has received 561 of those nominations, but so far only 353 have been confirmed -- just 62 percent of Obama's announced picks, the group reported.
Fox News was unable Wednesday to verify the group's tally with White House officials.

Click here to see the group's report.

The unconfirmed administration posts, which do not include ambassadors, U.S. attorneys or positions still awaiting nominations from Obama, mark a greater percentage than in the Bush White House, according to the White House Transition Group's research.

After former President George W. Bush's first year in office, the Senate had confirmed 360 of 513 administration posts named -- 70 percent of his announced nominees that year, according to the group.

The unconfirmed positions in Obama's administration include posts within a host of cabinet departments, like the departments of Homeland Security, Defense, Education, Energy, Justice, Labor and Treasury.

Senate Republicans have fiercely objected to a number of Obama's nominees, most recently union lawyer Craig Becker, whose confirmation to the National Labor Relations Board remains in limbo after it failed to advance in a Senate vote Tuesday.

GOP lawmakers, including Arizona Sen. John McCain, have vowed to place a hold on his nomination, claiming that Becker would make pro-union changes on the NLRB without congressional approval.

Becker, who currently serves as associate general counsel to the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), a labor union representing about 1.8 million workers, was approved in October by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

But McCain and a slew of business groups have raised questions over articles and academic journals written by Becker on the very labor law he would work to interpret if confirmed to the board. 

Critics say Becker's writings reflect views that support restricting employers' free speech rights and limiting the ability of employers to converse with their employees during union representation campaigns.

The practice of recess appointments is common among presidents when they