This week's unanimous Supreme Court ruling on President Obama's illegal recess appointments is a double smackdown. First, it's a rebuke against arrogant White House power-grabbers who thought they could act with absolute impunity and interminable immunity. Second, the ruling is a reproach of all the establishment pushovers on Capitol Hill who put comity above constitutional principle.
In a nutshell: The high court determined that Obama lawlessly exceeded his executive authority when he foisted three members onto the National Labor Relations Board in 2012, during what Democrats declared was a phony-baloney Senate "recess." In reality, the Senate was holding pro forma sessions over winter break precisely to prevent such circumvention. The ability to convene pro forma sessions is a power retained in both the House and Senate. It's a time-honored, constitutionally protected tradition.
No matter. Our imperial president and his crafty lawyers declared that the Senate wasn't in business despite the Senate's declaration that it was, and the White House rammed through the appointments of Terence Flynn, Richard Griffin and Sharon Block while the Senate took a brief weekend break in between the pro forma sessions. The steamrolling gave the NLRB a quorum -- and a green light to issue hundreds and hundreds of legally suspect decisions.
But conservatives objected. Plaintiff Noel Canning, the businessman who challenged the legitimacy of NLRB decisions made by the shadily packed panel, objected. And President Rules-For-Thee-But-Not-For-Me got hoisted by his own petard. The high court resoundingly rejected the administration's ploy to usurp "the Constitution's broad delegation of authority to the Senate to determine how and when to conduct its business."
The decision also vindicates conservative pushback against Obama's overreaching recess appointments of radical SEIU lawyer Craig Becker in 2010 and unfettered financial czar Richard Cordray in 2012. As Carrie Severino, chief counsel to the Judicial Crisis Network, put it: "(T)he real victory goes to the Constitution's separation of powers. ... By striking down these appointments, the Supreme Court delivered a much-needed bench-slap to the Obama administration's contempt for the Constitution."
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