Court Rules Obama Exceeded Authority in Filling Vacancies on Labor Panel
A federal appeals court ruled Friday that President Barack Obama exceeded his constitutional authority by making appointments when the Senate was on a break last year. The ruling would limit the power that presidents have used to make recess appointments when the Senate opposes them or doesn’t act on them.
The three judge panel of the US court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected the Obama administration’s reasoning for appointing three members of the National Labor Relations Board while the Senate was on a holiday break.
Chief Judge David B. Sentelle criticized the White House’s interpretation of when recess appointments could be made. He said that it would give the president free rein to appoint his nominees at any time even when the Senate is in session and he is just displeased with its inaction.
The issue will be brought to the Supreme Court, which would clarify the president’s authority to fill his administration and appoint federal judges when the Senate minority blocks his nominations. Recess appointments have been made in the past. It was utilized by modern presidents who face partisan opposition that made it hard for nominees to receive a vote in the Senate.
Friday’s ruling now casts doubt on hundreds of decisions the NLRB has made in 2012. They ranged from enforcement of collective-bargaining agreements to rulings on the rights of workers to use social media. The ruling also raises questions about the recess appointment of former Ohio attorney general Richard Cordray as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as well as the actions taken by the agency during his time in the agency. Obama named Cordray at the same time as the NLRB nominees.
The White House criticized the court ruling. It described the decision as novel and unprecedented. It added that it contradicted 150 years of practice by Republican and Democratic administrations.