Supreme Court: Obama Overstepped His Bounds
Court curtails president's ability to bypass Congress with recess appointments
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 26, 2014 9:35 AM CDT
This June 27, 2012, file photo shows an American flag in front of the US Supreme Court.   (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

(Newser) – The Supreme Court has just limited a president's power to make temporary appointments to fill high-level government jobs. The court ruled unanimously today that President Obama exceeded his authority when he invoked the Constitution's provision on recess appointments to fill slots on the National Labor Relations Board in 2012. Problem is, the court said, the Senate was not actually in a formal recess when Obama acted—it was in a "pro forma" session, holding brief meetings every three days. Obama argued that was a sham intended to block his appointments, but the court rejected that reasoning, saying that Congress gets to decide when it is in session.

Still, the outcome was the least significant loss possible for the administration. The justices, by a 5-4 vote, rejected a sweeping lower court ruling that would have made it virtually impossible for any future president to make recess appointments, by limiting the process to the once-a-year break between sessions of Congress. In other Supreme Court news:

  • The court unanimously struck down a Massachusetts law requiring protesters to stay at least 35 feet away from abortion clinics. The justices said that the buffer zone violates the First Amendment's protections on protest, with Chief Justice John Roberts writing that authorities have less intrusive ways to deal with problem protesters.