Obama's recess appointments unconstitutional, rules federal appeals court



President Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel Jan. 7, 2013 in Washington, D.C. Hagel is expected to bring a moderate Republican viewpoint to the Pentagon.


Alex Wong

President Barack Obama's recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board violated the constitution, a federal appeals court panel ruled on Friday.

The three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit said Obama did not have the power to bypass the Senate and fill three vacancies on the labor relations panel, according to the Associated Press.

The court found that the Senate was not actually in recess when Obama made the appointments, Politico said.

"[T]he President made his three appointments to the Board on January 4, 2012, after Congress began a new session on January 3 and while that new session continued," the court wrote, according to Politico. "Considering the text, history, and structure of the Constitution, these appointments were invalid from their inception."

The court ruling unanimously sided with Republican lawmakers and businesses that challenged the appointments. Senate Republicans had blocked Obama's appointees to the NLRB, calling them too pro-union, USA Today said.

White House press secretary Jay Carney blasted the decision, calling it "novel and unprecedented," according to Politico. He said the ruling "contradicts 150 years of practice by Democratic and Republican administrations... So we respectfully but strongly disagree with the ruling."

Carney refused to say if the administration planned to appeal the decision.

The appeals court's ruling invalidates hundreds of decisions made by the labor board over the past year.

The court decided that the Senate was technically in session when it was gaveled in and out for "pro forma" sessions during its 20-day recess. The AP said both GOP and Democratic lawmakers have used this technique in the past to prevent presidents from using his recess power.

USA Today noted that the case may end up in front of the Supreme Court. The ruling also calls into question Obama's appointment of Richard Cordray to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

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