Adding Recess Appointments to the President's “Tool Chest” of Unilaterial Powers

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

Published 2007, Political Research Quarterly 60(4): 645-654 (December).

Abstract:

In the struggle to control the federal bureaucracy, presidents have an overlooked but powerful tool: the recess appointment. By making recess appointments, presidents can fill vacancies without the advice and consent of the Senate. The authors delineate three conditions that define presidential unilateral powers and demonstrate how recess appointments fit within that paradigm. Presidents, the authors argue, should be more likely to make recess appointments to important policy-making positions, namely, major independent agencies. The authors compiled a data set of every civilian nomination and recess appointment between 1987 and 2004. After controlling for other factors, the authors find strong support for their theory. In the struggle to control the federal bureaucracy, presidents have an overlooked but powerful tool: the recess appointment. By making recess appointments, presidents can fill vacancies without the advice and consent of the Senate. The authors delineate three conditions that define presidential unilateral powers and demonstrate how recess appointments fit within that paradigm. Presidents, the authors argue, should be more likely to make recess appointments to important policy-making positions, namely, major independent agencies. The authors compiled a data set of every civilian nomination and recess appointment between 1987 and 2004. After controlling for other factors, the authors find strong support for their theory.

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