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Federal Court Rebukes Obama Administration Over Recess Appointments

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued a strong rebuke today to the Obama Administration’s “recess appointments” of members of the National Labor Relations Board.

President Obama violated the Constitution when he bypassed the Senate to fill  vacancies on a labor relations panel, a federal appeals court panel ruled  Friday.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said  that Obama did not have the power to make three recess appointments last year to  the National Labor Relations Board.

The unanimous decision is an embarrassing setback for the president, who made  the appointments after Senate Republicans spent months blocking his choices for  an agency they contended was biased in favor of unions.

The decision is an important development in the ongoing tension between the Executive and Legislative branches regarding Administration appointments.

The main thrust of the court’s opinion is that the recess appointment power extends only to intersession recesses–recesses between sessions of Congress–and not to intrasession recesses. Intrasession recess appointments have been made fairly commonly since WWII, and have been particularly common since the Reagan Administration. UN Ambassador John Bolton and Judge William H. Pryor, Jr. are two of the more high-profile intrasession recess appointments in recent years. The D.C. Circuit’s holding is is in acknowledged conflict with an Eleventh Circuit opinion from 2004. Intrasession appointments may be even more common than intersession appointments, so this is an important ruling as a practical matter.

North Carolina Congressional members have begun to react to the important decision.

In Watchdog Wire’s exclusive interview with Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), he stated his support of the court’s ruling.

“Today the D.C. Circuit court rejected the Obama Administration’s executive over reach by finding unconstitutional the President’s recess appointments of officers to federal agencies. This ruling will help in the fight to restore that very system of checks and balances to our government. No president should seek to hijack an independent executive branch agency with unconfirmed political appointees.”

Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) was unavailable for comment and did not release a formal statement today.

Representative Mark Meadows (NC-11) released the following statement on the federal appeals court’s decision.

“Today’s ruling is a win for the American people and our nation’s Constitution.  It also sends a strong message to President Obama that he is not above the law.  We have a separation of powers for a reason, and the president’s attempt to unilaterally appoint three people to the National Labor Relations Board when the Senate was not in recess was a clear violation of that.

“It is my hope that the same judgment is applied to the president’s appointment of Richard Cordray to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. I encourage President Obama to end this charade and not appeal the issue to the Supreme Court in some misguided attempt to preserve his power grab.”

U.S. Reps. John Holding and Walter Jones (R-NC) tweeted their approval of the decision.

House Democrats from North Carolina were publicly silent on the court decision as the weekend began.

Bruce Carroll

Bruce has his own blog, GayPatriot.org and is active on Twitter as @GayPatriot. Bruce lives near Charlotte, NC and enjoys country music and his three dogs.

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Categories: Labor / Unions
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