Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, the top Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, said "publicly and privately I made it very clear" that the White House should use recess appointments to appoint Cordray and fill other financial regulatory vacancies.
As 2011 was ending, an AFL-CIO official said "our conversations on the Hill and with the White House took on urgency" on the labor board appointments. One of the meetings was with the president's then-chief of staff, William Daley.
"Daley said, 'We understand the problem and have people looking at it,'" the official said. "We didn't get an answer. It was a very nerve-racking Christmas."
A White House official said the administration believed Senate Republicans were trying to scuttle nominees whose terms would go beyond the next election. Then, if Republicans won the presidency, the new president could fill those posts with his own nominees.
By waiting until January, the White House bought the recess appointees another year in office. They can serve until the end of the next congressional session, which would mean December 2013. If appointed in December, their terms would have lasted only until the end of 2012.
A president cannot remove the NLRB appointees prior to expiration of their terms. The consumer agency chief serves at the pleasure of the president, so Cordray might not stay anyway under a Republican president.
A Senate Republican leadership aide said McConnell told Democrats in December he was "prepared to do a slate of nominations" if the White House agreed to two conditions: It wouldn't bypass the Senate with recess appointments during the Christmas break, and the slate would include a number of pending nominees Republicans wanted. "They never contacted us one time," the GOP official said.
Last month, just the opposite occurred. Aides to Obama, Reid and McConnell negotiated a deal. The White House pledged not to bypass the Senate during the April recess, and Senate Democrats agreed to confirm eight Republican nominees. In a matter of minutes, more than 60 nominees sailed through the Senate.
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