Supreme Court Rebukes Obama Lawlessness
By Matthew Vadum
In a humiliating rebuke to President Obama, the Supreme Court affirmed in a labor relations case yesterday that there continue to be constitutionally prescribed limits to the powers of the nation’s Chief Executive.
The Court invalidated three recess appointments the president made in an attempt to unconstitutionally manipulate federal labor relations policy.
Justices held unanimously in National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning Thursday that Obama overreached on Jan. 4, 2012 when he recess-appointed three members to the NLRB without bothering to wait for the U.S. Senate to recess. Obama’s goal was to pack the under-staffed NLRB with likeminded leftists and give the board the quorum it previously lacked to conduct official business.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) lauded the Court’s clampdown on “President Obama’s unlawful abuse of the president’s recess appointments power.”
“This marks the 12th time since January 2012 that the Supreme Court has unanimously rejected the Obama administration’s calls for greater federal executive power,” Cruz said.
A delighted Michael Savage said on his radio show: “America just won a 9-to-0 victory over an emerging dictatorship.” (The full opinion is available at the Supreme Court’s website.)
In this post-constitutional era in which the Supreme Court gave its imprimatur to the nonsensical ruling in NFIB v. Sebelius, the vile pro-Obamacare decision that has been aptly compared to an infamous slavery-reinforcing ruling that helped to precipitate civil war, it remains to be seen what, if any, other limits to governmental power the Court will see fit to recognize. Ben Shapiro correctly characterized the tortuously reasoned Obamacare decision as “the greatest single judicial limitation on American liberty since Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857), in which the Supreme Court ruled that under the Constitution, blacks were not human beings.”
The lawsuit disposed of yesterday was brought by Noel Canning of Washington state, the owner of a soft drink bottling and distribution company who was displeased by a ruling the board made against him after its quorum was restored by the purported recess appointments. The NLRB found that Canning’s firm engaged in unfair labor practices by declining to sign a collective bargaining agreement. Canning argued the board had no legal authority to render the decision because the president’s recess appointments, made when the U.S. Senate did not consider itself to be in recess, were improper.
The Recess Appointments Clause (Article II, Section 2, Clause 3) of the U.S. Constitution states, “The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.”
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit previously sided with Canning and his company, finding that the president may make recess appointments only when the Senate is in recess between numbered sessions of Congress, and only then if the vacancy arose in that same time span.
The high court concurred, finding that the president cannot arrogate to himself the power to determine when the Senate is in recess. It is for the Senate to judge when it is in recess.
“We hold that, for purposes of the Recess Appointments Clause, the Senate is in session when it says it is, provided that, under its own rules, it retains the capacity to transact Senate business,” Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in the majority decision for the high court.
During oral arguments earlier this year, nearly every member of the Supreme Court questioned the constitutionality of Obama’s NLRB appointments.
Chief Justice John Roberts defended the Senate’s constitutional prerogative to approve nominees as a vital check on an out-of-control executive branch. Senators “have an absolute right not to confirm nominees that the president submits,” he said.
Left-leaning Justice Elena Kagan, an Obama appointee who had served as the president’s solicitor general, told government counsel, “The history is entirely on the Senate’s side, not your side.”
However, in rendering their decision this week the justices split over whether to preserve the president’s recess appointment powers.
As Daniel Greenfield noted, “There was no Supreme Court disagreement as to whether Obama’s recess appointments were illegal. Instead the liberal majority protected the recess appointment, while conservatives dissented.”
Justice Antonin Scalia indicated he agreed with the result in the case but chided the liberal members of the Court. “The majority practically bends over backwards to ensure that recess appointments will remain a powerful weapon in the president’s arsenal,” he said.
Nonetheless, the new ruling calls into question every order issued by the NLRB since the date the appointments were made.
The AFL-CIO’s Marxist president, Richard Trumka, downplayed the significance of the decision:
The impact of [Thursday’s] ruling is far less than it might have been, because there is now a full complement of Senate-confirmed members of the NLRB and a Senate-confirmed NLRB general counsel.
But Thomas J. Donahue, CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, hailed the court decision, calling it “a victory for the rule of law.” He added, “the president’s unprecedented recess appointments left the NLRB in legal limbo, causing major uncertainty for both employers and employees alike.”
Last summer the labor board got five Senate-confirmed members for the first time in years as part of a political deal between Senate Democrats and Republicans. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) pressured Republicans by threatening to enact the “nuclear option” to eliminate filibusters for most presidential nominations. The deal moved forward but Reid and his allies went ahead and changed the filibuster rule anyway.
Incidentally, the NLRB itself shouldn’t even exist. It is a socialist anachronism left over from the New Deal that Obama uses to create new rules and regulations without having to go the normal route and ask Congress to pass a law. Obama’s toadies at the NLRB are hellbent on making America more like bureaucratic, dysfunctional Europe where labor violence and union-caused disruptions are everyday occurrences.
It is worth recalling that two of the three recess-appointment labor board members were professional leftists.
At the time of his appointment Richard Griffin was general counsel for the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE). Since 1994 he had served on the board of directors for the AFL-CIO Lawyers Coordinating Committee.
When she was recess-appointed, Sharon Block was Deputy Assistant Secretary for Congressional Affairs at the U.S. Department of Labor. Between 2006 and 2009, Block was Senior Labor and Employment Counsel for the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee where she worked for the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.).
Appointee Terence F. Flynn, who had served as Chief Counsel to NLRB board member Brian Hayes, didn’t stick around long enough to influence much at the NLRB. He resigned four months into his term after an official probe was launched into allegations that he unlawfully leaked internal documents to a Republican colleague. Flynn denied any wrongdoing.
But the Canning decision wasn’t the only pro-freedom court ruling yesterday.
The New York State Court of Appeals killed former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s wildly unpopular law that prohibited the sale of sugar beverages in containers exceeding 16 fluid ounces.
Writing for the court’s majority, Judge Eugene F. Pigott Jr. determined that New York City’s Board of Health “exceeded the scope of its regulatory authority” in enacting the measure that residents resented because it limited their choices as consumers.
The city’s new far-left chief executive, Bill de Blasio, whined about the court decision, saying he was “extremely disappointed.” The mayor promised to seek out new ways to microscopically meddle in the affairs of New Yorkers.
Meanwhile, U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-N.Y.), who frequently excuses his sometimes jaw-dropping political timidity by asserting that Republican control of the House of Representatives represents control of one-half of one-third of the federal government, filed a lawsuit in which House Republicans speak for all of Congress.
“In my view the president has not faithfully executed the laws,” Boehner told reporters as he explained the legal action aimed at curbing Obama’s nearly daily overreaches.
Although some question whether House Republicans have proper legal standing to sue, leftist law professor Jonathan Turley of George Washington University said the action has a decent shot at succeeding.
Referring to President Obama’s increasing unilateralism, Turley said “there’s no license for going it alone in our system.”
“I think there is a case against the president for exceeding his authority,” Turley said. “I happen to agree with the president on many of his priorities and policies, but as I testified in Congress I think he has crossed the constitutional line.”