After Bypassing the Senate, Obama ‘Looks Forward to Working With Congress,’ Spokesman Says

By Susan Jones | January 6, 2012 | 8:21 AM EST

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

( – One day after provoking Republicans by making four “recess” appointments -- even though Congress is not in recess – the Obama White House insisted that the president “looks forward to working with Congress, with Republicans in Congress as well as Democrats, on the very important challenges that face the country.”

At Thursday’s press briefing, White House spokesman Jay Carney said he’s aware of Republican outrage over the four recess appointments Obama announced on Thursday, but -- Carney added -- “The fact is, the President firmly believes he has the constitutional authority to act as he did.”

In the next breath, Carney said this isn’t about whether Congress is in session: “What it’s really about is the absolute urgency to install Richard Cordray as our consumer watchdog so that he can get to work today, as the (Consumer Financial Protection Board) has already announced, protecting middle-class Americans…”

Carney also suggested that reporters “run up to Capitol Hill, check out the House and Senate and see if you can find a single member of Congress, and then tell me on this working day for most Americans whether or not Congress is in session.”

Article 1, Section 5 of the Constitution says, “Neither House, during the session of Congress, shall, without the consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days, nor to any other place than that in which the two Houses shall be sitting.”

Because the Republican-controlled House did not allow the Senate to adjourn in December, neither chamber was in recess when Obama made the appointments.

No “campfire” and “Kumbaya” in Washington

Asked how the president plans to “work” with Congress after insisting he won’t “take no for an answer” and refusing to wait for Congress to act – Carney responded, “I don’t think that anybody expected or expects Washington to be a campfire where everybody holds hands together and sings Kumbaya. That’s not what the nation’s business is about.”

Carney insisted that Obama “has worked cooperatively with Congress from the moment he took the oath of office, and he will continue to do so.” He called it unfortunate that Senate Republicans blocked a vote on Cordray’s nomination because they oppose the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Board.

If Republicans want to change the law, they should do it, Carney said. Meanwhile, President Obama plans to visit the Consumer Protection Financial Board on Friday.

Carney said Obama’s decision to make recess appointments – Cordray to the CPFB and three men to the National Labor Relations Board – “wasn’t a deliberately provocative thing.  It was a deliberately decisive move,” he called it.

Carney said he fully expects “greater cooperation” from Congress in the days ahead – because it’s an election year:

“And I would just say -- look, the President looks forward to working with Congress, with Republicans in Congress as well as Democrats, on the very important challenges that face the country, and the challenges that -- for which the solutions require congressional action.  And he -- going back to an earlier question -- he certainly expects that the Congress will extend the payroll tax cut, extend unemployment insurance; that they will do that without drama because it’s the right thing to do.  It’s a tax cut for 160 million Americans, the kind of thing that Republicans, at least in theory, are supposed to be for.

“So we expect that the President will be able to and will work to cooperate with Congress on a number of areas.  And as I said earlier this week, we actually are fairly hopeful about the prospect of greater cooperation.  Because not just the President is running for reelection, but all of the House and a third of the Senate, and everybody has to answer to their constituents.  And I think constituents to members of Congress are going to want to know what their elected representatives did, and what actions they took, beyond obstruction, to help the economy grow and create jobs.”

Obama ‘focused on his job’

On another topic, Carney said President Obama hasn’t “made an assessment” of the Republican race for president because “he knows from experience, very personal experience, that primaries can play out in a variety of different and unexpected ways. 

“So he’s focused right now, honestly, on his job," Carney said. "He doesn’t have a primary to worry about, and that affords him the luxury, if you will, but the importance of continuing to focus on what he can do as President to grow the economy and create jobs and, as you heard him today, to deal with our national security and our defense strategy.”

President Obama has made numerous trips to battleground states in recent months, including a multi-day bus tour in the South to drum up enthusiasm for his agenda.