In a case freighted with major constitutional implications, a federal appeals court on Friday overturned President Obamaâ€™s controversial recess appointments from last year, ruling he abused his powers and acted when the Senate was not actually in a recess.
The three-judge panelâ€™s ruling is a major blow to Mr. Obama. The judges ruled that the appointments he made to the National Labor Relations Board are illegal, and hence the five-person board did not have a quorum to operate.
But the ruling has even broader constitutional significance, with the judges arguing that the presidentâ€™s recess appointment powers donâ€™t apply to â€œintra-sessionâ€ appointments â€” those made when Congress has left town for a few days or weeks. They said Mr. Obama erred when he said he could claim the power to determine when he could make appointments.
â€œAllowing the president to define the scope of his own appointments power would eviscerate the Constitutionâ€™s separation of powers,â€ the judges said in their opinion.
The judges said presidentsâ€™ recess powers only apply after Congress has adjourned a session permanently, which in modern times usually means only at the end of a year. If the ruling withstands Supreme Court scrutiny, it would dramatically constrain presidents in the future.
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