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With GOP Divided on Recess Appointments, Some Strike Out on Their Own

As Senate Republicans struggle to craft a collective response to President Obama's recent controversial recess appointments, which included Richard Cordray to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, some are striking out on their own.

Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., announced he will boycott Tuesday's Banking Committee hearing with Cordray, the appointee's first appearance before a Senate panel.

Charging that Cordray is not "the duly constituted director of the CFPB," Wicker said, "I will not provide the Administration with the appearance of legitimacy," adding, "This may seem to be a small step, but I hope it is the first of what will become a debate in this Senate by both parties about the constitutional checks and balance."

Utah Sen. Mike Lee, a former Supreme Court clerk, called the president's appointments "deeply flawed" and said he will throw up road blocks for future nominees "unless and until (Obama) rescinds his unconstitutional recess appointments."

It's not clear exactly what Lee will do, but his spokesman, Brian Phillips, told Fox, "One senator does have a number of procedural tools, especially because (Lee) is on the Judiciary Committee, to delay and slow the process in order to get the President's attention. The bottom line is if the Senate does not act to defend its constitutional authority to weigh in on nominations when the President has taken clear and unquestionable, unconstitutional action, then it really is a ‘Do Nothing' Congress."

But Democrats have argued it's Republicans who have created a "Do Nothing" atmosphere, repeatedly blocking the president's appointees.

President Obama, for his part, hit lawmakers of all stripes Tuesday night in this State of the Union address, calling for an end to partisan gridlock, adding, "I ask the Senate to pass a simple rule, that all judicial and public service nominations receive a simple up-or-down vote within 90 days."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., expressed support this week for some kind of change, though he stopped short of embracing the Obama call to action, ever wary of pushing the minority too far.

"I think that we do have to take a look at the nomination process. It is not working very well," Reid said. "We tried to do something on secret hold, but that hasn't helped much at all. And I just think the system has to go back where it used to be and have a little collegiality." Some Republicans are wary of building retaliatory road blocks for future presidential nominees for fear they might be crushed under their own obstruction, as President Obama barnstorms the country campaigning for re-election against a recalcitrant minority.

Still, many Republicans have made clear they are not ready to move beyond the recent appointments controversy, with many hinting at serious action moving forward.

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said Monday that the Senate must act to preserve the Constitution's inviolate separation of powers, adding, "We should take action ourselves rather than rely upon others. The stakes are too high."