HONOLULU — President Barack Obama bypassed the Senate Wednesday to make six recess appointments, including a deputy attorney general whose links to the insurance giant American International Group had stalled his confirmation.
Obama first nominated James Cole to the No. 2 Justice Department post in May. But Republican lawmakers blocked his confirmation in part because of questions about his role as an independent consultant for AIG before its near collapse and government bailout in 2008. Senate Republicans complained that confidentiality agreements prevented them from receiving answers about his work for the company.
Others, including Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, the top Republican on the judiciary committee, raised questions about statements Cole made suggesting he supported trying terror suspects in U.S. courts rather than military tribunals.
Cole is a close friend of Attorney General Eric Holder and a partner at a private Washington law firm. His appointment is one of six Obama announced from his vacation in Hawaii, including ambassadors to Turkey and Syria.
Both Republican and Democratic presidents have made recess appointments, which circumvents the Senate’s authority to confirm nominees, when they could not overcome delays in the Senate. President George W. Bush made more than 170 such appointments in his two-term presidency. President Bill Clinton made nearly 140.
Obama has made 28 recess appointments this year. The White House said Bush had made 23 at this point in his presidency.
Obama has often warned that he is willing to turn to recess appointments to overcome Republican opposition. The White House said the appointees he named Wednesday had their nominations pending for an average of five months.
The recess appointments mean the six people can serve in their jobs through the end of 2011, when the Senate finishes its term. A recess appointment ends at the completion of the next Senate session or when a person is nominated and confirmed to the job, whichever comes first.
Others appointed Wednesday were: William Boarman, U.S. public printer; Matthew Bryza, ambassador to Azerbaijan; Norman Eisen, ambassador to the Czech Republic; Robert Ford, ambassador to Syria; and Francis Ricciardone, ambassador to Turkey.