Supreme Court justices voiced skepticism Monday regarding President Obama’s recess appointment powers, in the first such case to be considered by the high court.
The court heard arguments Monday in a politically charged dispute over the president’s power to temporarily fill top-level posts when the Senate is in recess. The justices heard more than 90 minutes of arguments in a case that centers on appointments Obama made in 2012 to the National Labor Relations Board.
While the justices repeatedly called those powers into question, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. warned the court that it would essentially write that power out of the Constitution if it found that those appointments were illegal.
This morning’s oral argument in National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning, the challenge to the constitutionality of the president’s recess appointments to the federal labor relations board, checked many of the boxes for high-profile cases. There were long lines and cameras outside. Inside, there was a full press gallery, from which reporters craned their necks to try to see the celebrities (or at least what passes for celebrities in Washington): Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, seated near White House spokesman Jay Carney and White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler. There were sardonic comments by Justice Scalia, and there was high-quality advocacy. But unlike many high-profile cases, there seemed to be at least some degree of consensus among the Justices, virtually all of whom expressed skepticism of the federal government’s broad defense of the president’s recess appointments power. At the same time, however, a few Justices seemed wary of upending the longstanding practice – by presidents of all ideological stripes – with a ruling that would sharply limit the availability of recess appointments. Whether they can convince their colleagues to reach some sort of middle ground, however, remains unclear.
This can be a BIG deal.