Obama says no to recess appointments

U.S. President Barack Obama has indicated that he will not make any recess appointments next week, while senators are back in their home states for the president's day holiday. Earlier in the week, Obama had signaled he might make the direct appointments -- circumventing the molasses-slow senate confirmation process, currently holding up scores of nominees, via this constitutionally granted executive privilege -- after senators approved 27 nominees yesterday.

Now, confirmation math is notoriously tricky. The numbers constantly change as the White House nominates and Congress takes appointees up. But some numbers we know for sure. At the one-year marker, George W. Bush had 70 nominees pending. Obama had 171. During Bush's first year, only three nominees waited for confirmation for more than three months. Forty-five of Obama's have waited more than four months; nine have waited more than six.

And the Republican minority has thrown sand in the gears of vitally important national security nominees -- who are, by congressional tradition, generally not subject to the absurd congressional tradition of holds. During wartime, Republicans held up the nomination of Gen. Stanley McChrystal and Sec. of the Army John McHugh, a Republican. Even after the failed Christmas Day bombing attempt, Sen. Jim DeMint kept a hold on Obama's nominee to the Transportation Security Administration, Erroll Southers. Even after yesterday, Philip Goldberg, Obama's nominee to lead the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, remains at home -- despite Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid taking to the floor to demand his confirmation.

So, even if the Senate confirmed 27 nominees yesterday, it is hard to argue it has been keeping pace. As far as I can figure, Obama got nothing in return for not making recess appointments this go-around -- it isn't as if the Republicans will let go a hold on another appointee or send him a fruit basket. And he has only further alienated the labor left and frustrated Dems on the Hill. Nobody's happy, vital security and diplomatic nominees are still pending, and I can't see the decision as anything but bizarre.


A strange new twist in the Haiti trafficking case

The lawyer for the 10 American missionaries charged with taking 33 children out of Haiti without permission was fired earlier this week by the group's legal advisor, Jorge Puello, after being accused of trying to offer bribes to get the group out of jail.

If you think that's weird, the situation took a bizarre turn yesterday when it was revealed by the New York Times that Mr. Puello was also being investigated for allegedly leading a trafficking ring involved with Central American and Caribbean women and girls.

No wonder Mr. Puello said in an interview that he was "representing the Americans free of charge because he was a religious man who commiserated with their situation." Color me crazy but employing the services of a wanted international trafficker typically isn't the best way to convince a judge that you weren't trying to smuggle children. I can't help but think that these guys are now way up the proverbial creek.