Another Obama Power Grab?

White House defends recesses appointments to new consumer watchdog group and NLRB


This is a rush transcript from "Your World," January 4, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST OF “YOUR WORLD”: President Obama using recess appointments to put Richard Cordray in charge of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and also filling three vacancies over at the National Labor Relations Board with some pro-labor folks.

Republicans are calling this a power grab, they won’t stand for.

To Gene Sperling, one of the president’s top economic advisers.

Gene, first on the consumer protection board appointment. These things are always dicey to do. President Bush found that out the hard way. Will this president?

GENE SPERLING, DIRECTOR, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: Well, look, what the president wanted here was simply to implement a law that was passed that created a consumer watchdog that could do things like make sure there’s model credit card transparency in plain English, that students knew how much the fees that they were going to pay when they took out loans from private lenders, that veterans would stop being targeted by installment lenders trying to take advantage of them.

All he wanted to do was implement this law. And he put forward someone who really had impeccable credentials, who was endorsed by Republican and Democrat state attorney general’s alike, and who was being held back not because of his credentials or differences with him, but, quite frankly, because some people were trying to use the prevention of appointments as a way of nullifying a law that Congress just passed that needs to be implemented.

CAVUTO: But I’m not going over ancient history here, Gene. I know you’re the economics guy.

But just as a reminder, when President Obama was Senator Obama, and we had the Bush administration appointing John Bolton...


CAVUTO: ... to the United Nations, he was against that, said that that’s going against the tenets of the Constitution. He’s a constitutional attorney.

And I think of that along with these NLRB appointments and I’m thinking, well, he’s riding roughshod over stuff that he held near and dear little more than a few years ago.

SPERLING: Well, I mean, look, there’s no question Article 2 of the Constitution expressly grants the president of the United States the authority to make appointments during a congressional recess.

I don’t think there’s any question that Congress actually, as the president’s lawyers have found, are in recess and will remain in recess. He’s using that constitutional authority. But I also think there’s differences from the examples you said.

This is not a case where people are really challenging this particular nominee’s credentials or capability. As I said, he had eight Republican attorneys general...


CAVUTO: They were questioning Bolton’s, Gene. The only reason why I mention it, though, Gene, is...


SPERLING: No, but that’s my point. That’s my point.

CAVUTO: But -- but...

SPERLING: Here, they’re trying to use blocking it as a way of nullifying the consumer watchdog that Congress has created a law to put in.

CAVUTO: All right. But do you risk creating enemies as a result of this?

The Chamber of Commerce, with whom the administration has had some chilly relations over the last couple of years, putting out a statement saying that says "The NLRB’s credibility" -- this is on the NLRB recess appointment -- "has suffered greatly during this administration due to an aggressive agenda favoring unions."


CAVUTO: Does this help that relationship?

SPERLING: Look, Neil, there’s no question we would much more prefer for the United States Senate, the Republicans in the United States Senate to work cooperatively with us.

On the NLRB, as you know, there was only two people there. So, without these appointments, there would not be a quorum.

CAVUTO: Right.

SPERLING: They couldn’t do business. They couldn’t do the nation’s business.

And you know that one of the three that the president put forward was a Republican. So this really is about preventing the blocking of appointments from allowing government to function. You should not use blocking appointments to nullify laws that Congress has passed.

And one of the points that Republican Attorney General Shurtleff made was, he said, look, if my party disagrees with this law, they should change it, but, if not, then let people do the job they’re supposed to do. And that’s what the president was trying to make sure happens in both of these cases.

CAVUTO: All right, we’ll be watching closely.

Gene Sperling, it’s always good having you on. Thank you very much.

SPERLING: Thank you, Neil.

CAVUTO: Gene Sperling.

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