Assessing Congressional Response to Growing Presidential Powers: The Case of Recess Appointments

Ryan C. Black, Michael S. Lynch, Anthony J. Madonna, and Ryan J. Owens

Published 2011, Presidential Studies Quarterly 41(3): 570-589 (September).


In 2007, the United States Senate moved into permanent session to stop President Bush from making recess appointments. This manuscript examines this episode. We argue that Congress is only able to effectively check presidential unilateral powers when the president’s use of such powers creates high political costs for a sufficient number of members such that congressional collective action is possible. Using case studies and multivariate analysis we show that Bush used recess appointments far more than his predecessors, creating high political costs for Senate Democrats and driving them to find an innovative way to check the power of the president.

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