As a result, his appointments to the NLRB have since been confirmed, as was his appointment of Richard Cordray as director of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, another recess appointment made during the same 2012 Senate break.
"He's no worse off and the presidency is no worse off," said former White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler, who recently returned to private practice. "In fact, it's better because now future presidents have clarity that the Supreme Court has definitively spoken that intra-session recess appointments are constitutionally valid."
Obama had argued that when he appointed the NLRB members the Senate was on an extended holiday break. The administration maintained that the brief sessions the Senate held every three days were a pretense designed to keep him from making a recess appointment.
In his majority opinion, Justice Stephen Breyer said that the Senate is not in recess if lawmakers actually say they are in session. A congressional break, he said, has to last at least 10 days to be considered a recess under the Constitution.
Conservatives took special notice of the solidarity behind the decision of the nine justices.
"They're surprisingly willing to push back against this president's overreach," said Curt Levey, who heads the conservative Committee for Justice.
Still, the decision was particularly narrow and did not end a president's power to make recess appointments.
Writing separately, the four justices on the conservative side of the court said they would have upheld an appellate court ruling that the only recess recognized by the Constitution is the once-a-year break between sessions of Congress.
"The presidency dodged a bullet today," said John Cooney, a former assistant to the solicitor general and deputy general counsel at the Office of Management and Budget under President Ronald Reagan. "All his predecessors had been very careful not to risk the powers of the presidency on separation of powers litigation whenever they didn't have high assurances that they'd win."
Follow Jim Kuhnhenn on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jkuhnhenn
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