Federal Court Rules Obama Recess Appointment Illegal

obama_cordrayA federal appeals court on Friday ruled that President Barack Obama violated the Constitution when he bypassed the Senate to fill vacancies on the National Labor Relations Board.

The three-judge panel said that as a result, the labor-relations board has lacked the quorum it needs to conduct much of its business.

But the ruling has even broader constitutional significance, with the judges arguing that the president’s recess appointment powers don’t apply to “intrasession” appointments — those made when Congress has left town for a few days or weeks.

The judges signaled the power only applies after Congress has adjourned a session permanently, which in modern times usually means only at the end of a year. If the ruling withstands Supreme Court scrutiny, it would dramatically constrain presidents in the future.

Last January Mr. Obama named union lawyer Richard Griffin and Labor Department official Sharon Block, both Democrats, and a Republican, NLRB lawyer Terence Flynn, to the labor board using his recess powers.

The court’s decision could also have implications for Richard Cordray, the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. President Barack Obama also used a recess appointment to name him to his position after Republicans blocked his nomination from coming to a vote.
The case is likely to end up before the Supreme Court, and it turns on the definition of what the Constitution means when it says “recess.”

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