Oct 23, 2006

Recess Appointment To Social Security Advisory Board

President Bush has used a recess appointment to get Jeffrey R. Brown on the Social Security Advisory Board. Brown is well known as a proponent of Social Security privatization. There was a hearing quite some time ago on Brown's nomination. Here is what Senator Max Baucus, the ranking Democrat on the Finance Committee had to say at the time::
Members of the Board are chosen to serve on the Advisory Board based on their expertise in the field of Social Security. In fact, the authorizing statute requires members of the Board to be chosen based on their " and experience." Jeffrey Brown meets this high standard. He is a professor of finance at the University of Illinois. And he is a former senior economist at the White House Council of Economic Advisors. Mr. Brown is a widely published scholar in the field of Social Security privatization. His work includes articles in academic journals, and op-eds in major newspapers advocating a privatized Social Security system. I do not agree at all with the privatization policies he supports. But I have tremendous respect for his intellect and experience. He has the ability to be a valuable member of the board. I am, however, troubled that Mr. Brown is not accompanied by a Democratic nominee today. A Democratic slot remains open on the board. And in order to retain balance on the board, the Democratic position needs to be filled along with the Republican slot that the President has nominated Mr. Brown to fill. In nominating an individual to fill the Democratic slot on the Social Security Advisory Board, the White House must consult with Democrats in Congress. There are many highly qualified individuals ready to serve on the board in the open Democratic slot. I look forward to working with the White House and the Senate Democratic leader to fill that position as soon as possible.
Thus, it appears that Brown was not confirmed because of President Bush's refusal to appoint a Democrat who opposed privatization to the Social Security Advisory Board.

Why would Bush give Brown a recess appointment now? On the face, it makes little sense. A recess appointment is only good until the end of the Congress. This Congress ends in less than three months. Why bother with a recess appointment now? The only guess that comes to mind to explain this recess appointment is that a near majority on the Social Security Advisory Board wants to issue a report strongly endorsing privatization, but lack the votes. Brown may be needed on the Board to issue the report. This is only speculation, but it is not speculation that the President intends to pursue privatization again in 2007. This has been loudly trumpeted. It is hard for anyone to take it seriously, but Bush appears to be determined to go back at it in 2007. Given that, it is hard not to interpret anything President Bush does that concerns Social Security as being connected with his desire to privatize.

This recess appointment can only make Senators look harder at Michael Astrue's nomination as Commissioner of Social Security.

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