Supreme Court Takes Up Nominations Battle

The Supreme Court will enter the fray of a power struggle between the Executive and Legislative Branches. On Monday, the Justices announced that they would hear a high stakes case regarding Presidential appointments that are subject to Senate confirmation. Specifically at issue is the power of the President to “recess appoint” officials. 

In January 2012, President Obama defied the Senate by appointing Richard Cordray as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, as well as three new Board Members of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). While Presidents may “recess appoint” officials when Congress is out of session, Senate Republicans noted that the Senate was not technically in recess and cried foul. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, was particularly angered by the President’s “outrageous actions” that he believed demonstrated a “monarchy mentality.” President Obama, however, believed Congress’ system is broken, and, in his 2012 State of the Union address, he declared: “Some of what’s broken has to do with the way Congress does its business these days. A simple majority is no longer enough to get anything -– even routine business –- passed through the Senate. Neither party has been blameless in these tactics. Now both parties should put an end to it.”

The Supreme Court has now granted a hearing to Noel Canning v. NLRB, in which a local Washington State soft drink company is challenging a NLRB ruling that it must enter into a collective bargaining agreement with a labor union. The authority of the NLRB Commissioners controversially appointed is at issue in the case. Senate Republicans have filed a brief in the case against the unilateral appointments. At the time of its filing, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) declared, “The President’s decision to circumvent the American people by installing his appointees at a powerful federal agency, when the Senate was not in recess, and without obtaining the advice and consent of the Senate, is an unprecedented power grab. We will demonstrate to the Court how the President’s unconstitutional actions fundamentally endanger the Congress’s role in providing a check on the excesses of the executive branch.”

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

Published: June 28, 2013