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Fast Facts: Recess Appointments

President Bush is taking advantage of Congress' vacation and giving John Bolton (search) a recess appointment to be the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. What is a recess appointment?

— A recess appointment occurs when the U.S. president fills a vacant federal position during a Congressional recess.

— The appointee stays on the job until the end of the next congressional session, unless the Senate ratifies the appointment thereby allowing the appointee to serve longer.

— Recess appointments are authorized by Article II, Section 3 of the U.S. 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."

— The recess appointment has been used mostly in recent history to bypass a Senate politically opposed to the nominee.

— The recess appointment power was viewed differently in the nation’s early days. Congress was away from the capital for long periods of time and allowing the president to fill a position quickly became a necessity.

— President George W. Bush appointed several judges to U.S. courts of appeals using recess appointments. One, Judge Charles Pickering (search) of the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, withdrew his name from consideration for renomination when his recess appointment expired.

— President Bill Clinton made a recess appointment of Bill Lan Lee (search) as assistant attorney general for civil rights. Clinton also used the power to name James Hormel (search) as ambassador to Luxembourg.

— In 1961, John F. Kennedy used the recess appointment to gain a seat on the federal bench for Thurgood Marshall (search), who six years later become the first black associate justice on the Supreme Court.