While Republican leaders ripped Cordray's appointment as "unprecedented" and potentially illegal, White House press secretary Jay Carney said Thursday President Obama and his administration are "very confident about the legal foundation upon which the president made this decision."
Carney said he was bemused by the Republican outcry because George W. Bush used his recess appoint power 61 times by this point in his term while Obama appointed 32 individuals, including the four Wednesday. Eighteen of the recess appointments since have been confirmed, Carney said.
"The fact is, the president firmly believes he has the constitutional authority to act as he did," Carney said. "And they [Republicans] can make a lot of process arguments about it. We feel very strongly that the Constitution and the legal case is strongly on our side."
He cautioned, however, "I don't want to anticipate legal challenges we haven't seen yet."
Business groups say legal challenges to the recess appointment could come quickly and a U.S. Chamber of Commerce official told The Hill a court fight over the appointment was a virtual certainty.
The president also used the congressional recess to appoint three members of the National Labor Relations Board, which gives the agency a working quorum for 2012.
Responding to a question about Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney calling the appointees "union stooges," Carney said one of the nominees was a Republican "who's been languishing -- hadn't even gotten a committee vote for a year."
The spokesman said he found it "a little rich" that Romney spoke against the four appointees, taking a position "against the security and protection of working and middle-class Americans … ."
Carney said Obama wasn't trying to begin the new year in an antagonistic manner.
"He chose to start the new year with an action that is designed to take care of and protect average Americans who have to deal with these non-financial institutions" because the law didn't allow the bureau to oversee the non-bank financial institutions without Cordray in place, Carney said.
For whatever reason, Senate Republicans refused to allow "an up-or-down vote on somebody who is broadly acknowledged to be enormously qualified for the job, has broad bipartisan support across the country, and who even among those very Republicans who filibustered his nomination is viewed as qualified for the post."
If Republicans don't like the law as written "they should try to pass a law to change it," Carney said.