With the Supreme Court in action, some other exercises in stretching the constitutional limits have been left behind in the media. Featured Contributor Ashley Field schools Professor Obama (and Congress) on the Constitution in "The Professor Has Been Overruled":
President Obama's recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board a year ago have been found in violation of the constitution, according to a federal appeals court. The ruling is a bit of a shocker...I mean if there was one Prez who knows the constitution it would be this self described nerd who made a career studying and teaching constitutional law, right? Evidently not, but before you anti-Obama supporters celebrate, lets look at some facts.
The unprecedented move by the courts has contradicted over 150+ years of presidential appointments during congressional recesses or "breaks" in sessions. Clinton had 139 appointments,Bush 171, and Obama so far...32. Both parties are guilty of pushing through their own agendas without congressional approval since 1867 - so why now has this become an issue? Sure the presidential power to bypass senate confirmations of candidates does seem to overstep certain held democratic principles, such as checks and balances. But does a ruling by three Republican elected judges toward a democratic President seem balanced? Legislating from the bench, anyone?
Possibly, but the heart of the case - and what the court was originally expected to rule on instead of a sweeping override of executive power - is in the Constitution's interpretation of congressional recesses and "breaks" a.k.a pro forma sessions. So let's break those two things down, shall we?
Congressional recesses occur during the end of a yearly session of congress or during federal holidays and must be at the consent of both the House and Senate. The lawful term of a congressional recess means all business has been "put on hold."
Now, a pro forma session is a brief meeting where no formal business is expected to be conducted. This exists because the Constitution states "that neither chamber can adjourn for more than three days without the consent of the other." In the last 6 years it has been utilized as a tool for partisanship on both sides of the aisle (starting with the Democrats) to prevent the incumbent President from making - you got it! - recess appointments.
Ironically, the President's power to make such appointments only exists due to the fact that when the Constitution was written it could take days or weeks for congressional members to return to Washington, so it was seen as an important kog in keeping the federal government a well oiled piece of machinery. However, in a time of intense partisan divide this ruling has the potential to further debilitate the efficiency of this constitutional device; it's not like congress needed more balking power. If the ruling holds it could take months longer to fill vital appointments. It throws cases, decisions, and votes by those appointed during past recesses AND administrations into legal limbo. For example, the N.L.R.B.'s ability to tell companies that they have no legal right to mandate what their employees put on social media (or fire them for what they do put). Its also going to affect judges (courts), ambassadors (foreign relations), the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (banks/your money), and hundreds of other boards, commissions, and committees ranging from veterans affairs to fine arts.
So I ask you, who's agenda should we be worried about? Why didn't the court just rule on the original issue at hand? Should pro forma sessions be considered "recesses" (especially, when they are clearly just being used for partisan purposes)? Are these sessions a necessary tool in government or just a hinderance to its overall efficiency? And, most importantly, why is our government always trying to fuck us in the ass without lube?
- Ashley Fields