Barack Obama’s 2012 attempt to make appointments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court Thursday. The administration claimed the appointments were “recess.” The Supremes disagreed: 9-0.
The case centered on the tactics Obama used to fill three vacancies on the NLRB, a federal labor arbiter.
While the Senate was in pro forma session, the president filled the vacancies with two union lawyers and a Republican, giving Democrats a 3-2 majority on the board without the consent of the Senate.
The unanimous decision preserves the right of presidents to make recess appointments, but the court said Thursday that Obama exceeded his authority when he made the appointments. At question was whether Congress was in technically in session or not. Congress said it was; Obama said it wasn’t. SCOTUS agreed with Congress.
The justices said in their first-ever consideration of the Constitution’s recess appointments clause that Congress gets to decide when it is in recess and that there was no recess when Obama acted. The president said he made the appointments in the face of Republican refusal to allow the NLRB to function.
Huge decision. In light of the concerns of many – on all sides of the political spectrum – that Obama’s penchant for relying on executive action versus the legislative process to implement his policies is an attack on the Constitution, it will be interesting to watch the repercussions.