Senate Adjourns, Ends Standoff With Bush
By Paul Kane
In less than 30 seconds this morning, Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) gaveled to a close a 14-month standoff between Senate Democrats and President Bush, effectively ending the contentious 110th Congress and also blocking any last-minute appointments by the White House.
At 10 a.m. ET sharp, Bingaman oversaw the last of the pro forma sessions of the Senate, an open-and-shut day in which just one senator gavels the chamber into session and almost immediately gavels it shut. So long as these occur every fourth day, the Senate has technically not gone into an extended recess, forbidding the president from making interim appointments to the Cabinet, judiciary and the sprawling network of bipartisan commissions that oversee domestic industries.
It also served as the last act of the Senate in this Congress, with the House coming in tomorrow for similar non-legislative activity to close down the session. Both chambers will reconvene at noon Tuesday to kick off the 111th Congress with the swearing-in of the entire House and those senators that won election or reelection in 2008.
Among the many standoffs between congressional Democrats and Bush, the issue of interim appointments was one -- possibly the only one -- where Democrats truly had the upper hand under the Constitution.
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