In its first decision regarding a president’s ability to choose officials during a Senate break, the U.S. Supreme Court Thursday unanimously found that Barack Obama acted inappropriately in his 2012 appointment of National Labor Relations Board members.
When the NLRB targeted a Pepsi-Cola distributor following the three appointments, he fought back by claiming they were inappropriately installed on the board.
Critics have long panned Obama’s contention that, since the Senate was on a temporary holiday break, he was free to make appointments. In reality, many experts noted, the three-day break should not be considered a formal recess.
Justices bolstered that argument, with Stephen Breyer writing that the U.S. Constitution mandates that Congress must be out of session for at least 10 days to qualify as a recess.
Confirming that the 2012 break was “too short a time to bring a recess,” Breyer confirmed the court’s conclusion that “the President lacked the power to make the recess appointments here at issue.”
As Fox News explained, the controversy has waned in the nearly two years since Democrats recaptured the Senate and passed rules limiting GOP opposition to executive appointments. If the Republican Party is successful in taking the chamber back in November, however, Obama could feel the effects of Thursday’s ruling.
While the unanimous decision was a direct denunciation of Obama’s executive action, a split vote among the justices saved the notion of recess appointments for future presidents. By a 5-4 margin, the court struck down a lower court’s decision that would have made such appointments much more difficult.
If upheld, that ruling would have limited appointments to the yearly recess between sessions – and only to fill positions that also became vacant during that same period.
Many Republicans are pleased with the ruling, including the party’s leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell.
He confirmed the Senate “was meeting regularly” when Obama made the NLRB appointments, noting he acted “without even bothering to wait for its advice and consent.”
The Supreme Court, he concluded, “has rejected this brazen power-grab.”
Plenty of Twitter users celebrated the decision Thursday:
SUPREME COURT JUST LIMITED OBAMAS POWER TO MAKE RECESS APPOINTMENTS. MAYBE THE TIDE IS TURNING
— GLENN (@GCGATOR24) June 26, 2014
‘Wait’ll Obama reads the paper tomorrow’: Supreme Court rules WH’s recess appointments unconstitutional http://t.co/5FzneuX3oq
— IrritatedWoman™ (@irritatedwoman) June 26, 2014