Obama Makes Six Appointments During Congressional Recess

January 2, 2011 Updated: October 1, 2015

President Obama holds a news conference at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on December 8, in Washington, DC.   (Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)
President Obama holds a news conference at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on December 8, in Washington, DC. (Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON—President Obama used the Senate's holiday recess last week to appoint six senior federal officials. Among them was James L. Cole as Deputy Attorney General at the Department of Justice (DOJ). He will serve with Attorney General Eric Holder's as second-in-command. Republicans were upset by the appointment of Cole, whose nomination has been awaiting senate action for five months.

Appointment to senior federal posts requires Senate confirmation, but the constitution allows the president to appoint without Senate approval while the body is in recess. Those appointed during recess can then serve for the next session of Congress without Senate approval. If they are not approved by the end of 2012, the posts will become vacant again.

Cole previously worked for the DOJ for 13 years before entering private practice in 1992. He has been a partner at Bryan Cave, LLP since 1995.

According to his CV at former employer Bryan Cave's website he tried several cases for the DOJ, "prosecutions of a member of Congress, a federal prosecutor, and a United States District Court Judge." He also worked on President Clinton's transition team in 1992 in a review of the DOJ.

Rep. Peter King (R-NY) blasted Obama for appointing Cole, saying it may be one of the President's worst appointments during his presidency.

“I strongly oppose the recess appointment of James Cole to lead the national security team at the Department of Justice," said King in a statement. "The appointment indicates that the Obama Administration continues to try to implement its dangerous policies of treating Islamic terrorism as a criminal matter."

King says the administration will continue to try treat Islamic terrorism as a criminal matter because of a Sept. 9, 2002 op-ed Cole authored in Legal Times Cole that argued the 9/11 terrorist attacks should not be treated as an act of war, requiring military tribunals, but rather as a criminal act against a civilian population.

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) also commented on Cole's recess appointment, saying Republicans refused to debate Cole's nomination for over five months. "I have no question that Jim Cole is highly qualified to fill this vital law enforcement post," said Leahy in a statement on his website. "His nomination received bipartisan support from public officials and from high-ranking veterans of the Justice Department."

The President also appointed four ambassadors including Robert Stephen Ford as ambassador to Syria, Matthew J. Bryza as ambassador to Azerbaijan, Norman L. Eisen as ambassador to the Czech Republic, and Francis J. Ricciardone, Jr. as ambassador to Turkey. Obama also appointed William J. Boarman to head up the Government Printing Office as Public Printer of the United States.