Gavel Grab

Court’s Recess Appointments Ruling a Setback for Obama

A three-judge federal appeals court panel in Washington ruled that President Obama overstepped constitutional boundaries when he made several recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board in order to overcome Republican filibustering.

The central issue, involving presidential appointment power and conflicting interpretations of what a Senate “recess” means, could end up at the Supreme Court, and there was widespread media coverage. The White House criticized the ruling while saying its disagreement was respectful, according to a Washington Post article.

“The decision is novel and unprecedented, and it contradicts 150 years of practice by Democratic and Republican administrations,” Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, said. “We respectfully but strongly disagree with the ruling.”

According to the Post, a Supreme Court ruling “ultimately could clarify a president’s authority to fill his administration and appoint federal judges when a minority of the Senate blocks consideration of his choices.”

Some news media reports noted that all three judges were appointed by a Republican president. At Atlantic online, Garrett Epps also pointed out that the D.C. appeals court has five judges named by Republicans, three named by President Clinton, and none named by Obama. His choices have been filibustered by Republicans (see Gavel Grab).

Recess appointments by presidents over the years are not unusual, and modern-day presidents battling partisan opposition have used them more frequently.

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