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A look at presidential recess appointments
Presidents since George Washington have made appointments during congressional recesses to fill positions in the executive and judicial branches. Under the Constitution, the president can make temporary appointments while the Senate is in recess, without Senate approval. The appointment lasts through the end of the following one-year session of Congress.
Following are some of the more notable recess appointments:
President Bush: 106 recess appointments, including Bolton, mostly to minor posts. Among them:
Anthony J. Principi, chairman of the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission, April 2005. Bush used the recess to also appoint the panel's other eight members, circumventing a move by Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., to delay the base closings.
William Pryor, 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, February 2004. The Alabama judge's re-nomination and Senate approval this June was part of a deal struck by centrist senators to avoid a judicial filibuster battle.
Charles Pickering, 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, January 2004. First nominated in 2001, he was blocked by Senate Democrats. He retired when his temporary appointment expired last December.
Eugene Scalia, Labor Department solicitor, January 2002. Bush extended Scalia's term by naming him acting solicitor in November 2002, with the intent of re-nominating him before a GOP-controlled Senate. But Scalia, son of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, resigned in January 2003.
Otto Reich, assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere, January 2002. The former Reagan White House aide left when his recess term expired the following November.
President Clinton: 140 recess appointments over two terms. Among them:
Former Sen. Wyche Fowler, D-Ga., ambassador to Saudi Arabia, August 1996. Put in the post two months after a bombing that killed 19 American soldiers stationed there, he received Senate confirmation in October 1997 and served until March 2001.
Mickey Kantor, commerce secretary, April 1996. He replaced Ron Brown, who died in a plane crash, but left in January 1997 before his nomination went before the Senate.
Roger Gregory, 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, December 2000. He was later re-nominated by Bush and confirmed by the Senate.
Bill Lann Lee, assistant attorney general for civil rights, August 2000. Blocked by Senate Republicans, he was appointed acting assistant attorney general in 1997, then received the recess appointment to serve out Clinton's term.
James Hormel, ambassador to Luxembourg, June 1999. A gay philanthropist whose nomination was blocked by Senate Republicans, he remained ambassador until near the end of Clinton's term.
Other recess appointments of note:
The first President Bush made 77 recess appointments over one term, and President Reagan made 243 over two terms.
President John F. Kennedy appointed Thurgood Marshall to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in October 1961, getting around opposition from Southern senators. Their resistance had weakened by the following September, and the Senate approved him 54-16.
President Dwight Eisenhower made three recess appointments to the Supreme Court: Chief Justice Earl Warren (1953) and Associate Justices William Brennan (1956) and Potter Stewart (1958). Each later received Senate confirmation.
President George Washington appointed John Rutledge of South Carolina as chief justice during a 1795 recess. The Senate rejected the nomination and his appointment expired after he served one term.
Sources: AP archives; Congressional Research Service; Senate Historian's Office.