The ongoing tragedy (now "catastrophe") at the Crandall Canyon Mine in Huntington, Utah, should serve as a wake-up call that we need to amend the constitution to take away the Executive's authority to make recess appointments, or, at the very least, severely restrict its usage with clear, specific language. (None of this crap where the president can fill a vacancy because he claims it's a national emergency to not have a particular post filled.)
Despite being rejected not once, but twice, by the Senate to head the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), Bush went ahead and used his authority to put Richard Stickler, a former executive in a mining company, in there as a recess appointment. There was a reason why Stickler was rejected not once but twice. He has a terrible safety record and he is so on the side of mine owners that he has said that he doesn't feel there is any need for new laws or regulations for mining safety. Congress has vowed to hold hearings "at the appropriate time" (which, I guess, means once this particular tragedy has come to its final resolution.) Obviously nothing they do can ever bring back the six miners lost in the original accident (hope is fading that they are still alive) nor the three resucers killed trying to save them. My condolences to their families. I am sorry that your loved ones fell victim to an administration that doesn't care one way or the other if you live or die, as long as someone can make money off it.
The recess appointment was seen as useful during a time when the Congress met for less than half a year before going back to their farms or businesses or families. But those days are long gone, and now the Congress is rarely in recess for more than a month and a half. Six weeks is not a long time to go without someone being at the head of any agency. If they picked their subordinates well (and the Senate didn't rubberstamp them), the number two person should be able to handle executing the laws of the country just fine. If they can't, then they shouldn't be in that position in the first palce. I do not believe the framers of the constitution ever intended that a twice-rejected nominee would ever get put in that position through a recess appointment. Perhaps one of the stipulations would be that no person rejected by the Senate could be given a recess appointment. Then we wouldn't get people like John Bolton as our UN Ambassador. Bolten was famous for saying that if ten floors of the United Nations building were blown up, it wouldn't make any difference. He also said once (on The Daily Show) that the president is there to serve the people who elected him, not the entire country. (He also said that President Lincoln's cabinet were all people who thought like he did. Luckily, the next night, Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of "Team of Rivals", corrected the record on that point.)
The problem comes when we assume that our government officials will act on behalf of the people, and not corporations. Corporations have no constitutional rights whatsoever, only people do. Corporations do have have any right to vote, only people do. And yet there are people in this country who actually believe that businesses should be unregulated, that "the market" will weed out the bad business practioners, and that making a profit should be the only concern of any corporation. Two of those people are the president and vice president. And yet these two men have demonstrated time and again, through the appointments they have made, that the will, safety and well-being of the people are of no concern, that the wishes of businesses are more important than the will of the people, and that laws that require business owners to keep their employees safe are unnecessary. Because, to their way of thinking, anything that takes away from profits is inherently a bad thing.
For a variety of reasons, George Bush has proven that he has been a terrible president (many think the absolute worst) because many of the things he has done he has done specifically to get around the laws preventing him from doing what he wants to do. His recess appointments have frequently been used to get people into positions the Senate said they were unfit to hold. This is not acting in "good faith". This could even could be contrued as not faithfully executing the laws of the country. And that is a clear and undeniable breach of his constitutional oath of office. We can't take any chances that we will never have a president as bad (if not worse, though that's hard to imagine) as Bush. He has become the poster boy for consitutional reform. The president's duty is to carry out the laws, not make up his own, and not to ignore the ones on the books already. Those miners, and the rescuers lost going after them, are all victims of this administrations "profit at all cost" mentality. My heart goes out to their families.
UPDATE: The Congressional Research Service issued a report on George Bush's recess appointments that can be viewed here.