In a victory for Senate Republicans and a major legal defeat for the White House, a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court found that President Obama wrongly installed several members of the National Labor Relations Board, ruling that the appointments were not made when the Senate was truly on recess.
“Because the Senate was in session during its pro forma sessions,” Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for the court, “the President lacked the authority to make those appointments.”
“That shows the disregard the President held this body, and the Constitution, when he made these appointments,” said Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), who said the recess appointments were ‘blatantly unconstitutional.’
“This administration has a tendency to abide by laws that it likes and to disregard those it doesn’t,” said Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, who helped spearhead the legal challenge against the Obama recess appointments.
The Supreme Court’s ruling can be found on the Court’s website.
For Republicans, it was an ‘I told you so” moment, as they had claimed from the beginning that the President had tried to install the NLRB appointees at a time when the Senate was technically in session – what we call ‘pro forma’ sessions, where no legislative business is conducted.
The Court’s opinion suggested today that future Presidents can only use the recess appointment power when the Senate is on a break that lasts at least ten days.
“In light of historical practice, a recess of more than 3 days but less than 10 days is presumptively too short to fall within the (Recess Appointments) Clause,” the ruling stated.
Unanimous but Divided opinion
While the entire Court signed on to this opinion, it was clear that the more conservative block of justices wanted a more sweeping ruling, one that would not allow any recess appointments during a session of Congress, but only in between the sessions.
“I concur in the judgment only,” wrote Justice Antonin Scalia, who read a big chunk of his concurring opinion from the bench after the decision was announced.
Scalia was joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Alito and Thomas in arguing that the majority opinion’s embrace of a 10 day Senate recess as a guidepost was mistaken.
“An interpretation that calls for this kind of judicial adventurism cannot be correct,” Scalia thundered in his concurrence that sounded at times more like a dissent.