"Today's SCOTUS decision is encouraging for all who believe in the checks and balances enshrined in our nation's constitution," is Darrell Issa's message following the Supreme Court's unanimous (9-0) decision cutting back the power of the White House to temporarily fill senior government posts when facing partisan opposition in Congress. The White House spokesman said President Obama was "deeply disappointed" and is 'reviewing' the decision. Simply put, President Obama used the recess appointment power to make an end run around a Senate that refused to confirm controversial nominees - thanks to this unanimous SCOTUS decision, that use of the power is all but dead.
The US Supreme Court today limited a president's power to make recess appointments when the White House and the Senate are controlled by opposite parties, scaling back a presidential authority as old as the republic.
The case arose from a political dispute between President Obama and Senate Republicans, who claimed he had no authority to put three people on the National Labor Relations Board in January 2012 when the Senate was out of town.
He used a president's power, granted by the Constitution, to "fill up all vacancies that may happen during the recess of the Senate." But the Republicans said the Senate was not in recess at the time the appointments were made, because every three days a senator went into the chamber, gaveled it to order, and then immediately called a recess.
Both sides have had their comments (via Reuters),
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat from Nevada, said the ruling “underscores the importance” of the Senate rule change last year.
“Without that reform and with today’s ruling, a small but vocal minority would have more power than ever to block qualified nominees from getting a simple up-or-down vote,” he said.
Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, said: "All Americans should be grateful for the court's rebuke of the administration." Republican senators had filed court papers urging the court to rule against the administration.
Breyer wrote that the recess appointment power is only triggered once the Senate has been in recess for 10 days. He rejected the Obama administration's argument that the appointment power needed to be expansive to overcome political differences between branches of government that prevent nominees from being confirmed.
The recess appointments clause "is not designed to overcome serious institutional friction," he wrote. The majority was hesitant to issue a broader ruling because it would have brought into question hundreds of appointments made over the years, Breyer added.
Reading from the bench, Scalia was insistent that the court should have gone further, saying that presidents have over the years treated the need to have nominees confirmed by the Senate as an "unreasonable burden."
Scalia would have favored ruling that the president could only make recess appointments in formal recesses between Senate sessions when the vacancies in question arose during that recess.
In Thursday's ruling, the majority "sweeps away the most important limitations the Constitution places on the president's recess appointment power," Scalia said.
But we leave it to Darrell Issa to sum it up...
Today's SCOTUS decision is encouraging for all who believe in the checks and balances enshrined in our nation's constitution.— Darrell Issa (@DarrellIssa) June 26, 2014
This unanimous decision makes it clear that President Obama acted without any legitimate authority.— Darrell Issa (@DarrellIssa) June 26, 2014