The president's declaration concerning Congress-blocked potential laws on Monday declared he “has a phone and a pen.” In other words, by executive action, or some other means, avoid Congress and work his own will.
That brought instant reaction from justices at the U.S. Supreme Court - "wrong."
Obama's threat was meant to declare he has almost unlimited powers, which many justices consider stomping on the Founding Father's vision of the executive branch's authority.
The Court was obviously thinking of Obama's attempt in 2012 to name three members to the National Labor Relations Board in January, 2012. They narrowly ruled they could simply invalidate Mr. Obama’s appointments by finding he tried to make them when the Senate considered itself in session, not in recess.
However, the Court could also extend that ruling to limit the president’s recess powers to the short period after the Senate adjourns at the end of each year.
It took the justices only 90 minutes of oral arguments and debate to define the separation of powers between the branches, and sparred with Donald B. Verrilli Jr., the Obama administration’s solicitor general, about the president’s expansive claims.
Mr. Verrilli said, “We have, I would submit, a stable equilibrium that has emerged over the course of this country’s history between the two branches,” he said. “What we are advocating for here is the status quo.”
He grudgingly admitted that recess appointment power had moved beyond its original intent and has now become a “safety valve” for the president.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer retorted by saying, I can’t find anything that says the purpose of this clause has anything at all to do with political fights between Congress and the president.”
Interestingly, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, attended Monday’s argument and said the justices were “rightly skeptical” of Mr. Obama’s claims.
Other attendees included White House’s chief attorney, Kathryn Ruemmler, and press secretary Jay Carney. Unsurprisingly, both feel the court will side with Mr. Obama.
Under the U.S. Constitution, President Obama has the duty to nominate key officials, but the Senate is given the power to confirm them. Since the beginning of Obama's first term, Congress has been meeting almost continuously arguing the recess appointments the president has made.
It all came to a head in 2012 when the Senate wouldn't act on his nominees to the National Labor Relations Board.
Mr. Obama tried an end run.
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