U.S. President Barack Obama's nominee to head the Transportation Security Administration, Erroll Southers, has withdrawn his name from consideration for the job. Reportedly, Southers considered himself too much of a lightning rod for controversy. Arch-conservative Sen. Jim DeMint put him on hold, concerned over Southers' willingness to let TSA employees bargain collectively -- and the senator hasn't backed down. After the TSA sat leaderless the day of the attempted Christmas Day pantsbomber attack, Southers apparently had enough.
I profiled this issue yesterday, in a story called "Help Wanted." Southers was just one of 177 appointments held up by the Senate, many via "holds," a congressional tradition -- not an actual constitutional parliamentary maneuever -- that lets single senators stop or pause the confirmation of nominees by threatening to gum up the works. Holds are an old story, mostly a way to force horse-trading, perpetrated by Democrats on Republicans and Republicans on Democrats. But, I write, they've reached a fever pitch one year into the Obama administration.
What I can't figure out is why Obama didn't make use of a real consitutional parliamentary maneuever to get Southers working: the recess appointment. Article II, Section II says, "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." Bush did it. Clinton did it. Presidents have done it since the time of Washington.
It only gets the nominee a year in the spot, and therefore isn't very useful for judicial nominees. But why on Earth didn't Obama appoint Southers, widely considered a good person for the job, even if just for a year?