By David G. Savage
9:43 AM EDT, June 24, 2013
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal from the Obama administration and decide whether the President may make temporary “recess appointments” to federal offices when the Senate takes a short break during the year.
The case will be heard in the fall, and it is likely to yield an important decision on the constitutional powers of the President to execute the duties of his office in the face of Senate opposition. It could also have an impact on President Obama’s final years in the White House.
Senate Republicans are in the minority, but they have succeeded in blocking confirmation of Obama’s nominees to several agencies, including the National Labor Relations Board and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The Republicans used the filibuster rule to prevent a vote on the Senate floor.
Obama in response invoked an old, but disputed power of the chief executive. He named appointees to those agencies when the Senate was on a three-week break in January of 2012. He did so under a clause in the Constitution that says “the President shall have the power to fill up all vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate.”
But some businesses which objected to Obama’s appointees to the labor board sued, arguing that the president had overstepped his authority.
The U.S. Court for the District of Columbia agreed and ruled Obama’s recess appointments were unconstitutional because they came during a brief break in a Senate session. Judge David Sentelle said the president’s recess appointment power is limited to the period when the Senate has formally ended a two-year session and not begun the next session.
U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli appealed and said this ruling, unless reversed, would dramatically limit the chief executive’s power to make emergency appointments.
The case is NLRB v. Noel Canning.
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