The Supreme Court ruled against President Obama on Thursday, declaring unanimously that three appointments Obama made in 2012 to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) were unconstitutional as they were not approved by the Senate, which was in a pro-forma session at the time. The ruling also determined that Congress alone had the power to decide exactly when it was in recess.
“It was a banner day for limited government and judicial unanimity at the Supreme Court,” wrote Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post. “And as a result it was a humiliating one for the president.”
But it’s important to keep in mind, according to some sources, that Obama resorted to these measures in the first place because he was being blocked at every turn by the GOP.
“Remember, this controversy stemmed from the Senate GOP's determination to filibuster all nominees to the NLRB regardless of qualification, in order to nullify laws they couldn't repeal or amend through the legislative process,” wrote Brian Beutler of the New Republic. “It was a radical strategy, and it left Democrats no choices other than to either push the envelope on recess appointments or nuke the filibuster. In the end they did both.”
Which was not how the system was designed to be used, according to others.
"The recess appointments clause is not designed to overcome serious institutional friction," Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for the majority as quoted by USA Today. "Friction between the branches is an inevitable consequence of our constitutional structure."
While the ruling will likely not have a significant effect on politics, according to David Graham of The Atlantic, it may make Obama’s last two years as president more difficult.
“Republicans are generally favored to win back the Senate in November,” wrote Graham. “If they do, they'll have new power to block presidential appointments, and Obama will have a new incentive to find ways to work around them.”
Other sources believe that politics aside, this ruling was a huge success for the checks and balances system and reining in the power of the president.
“The Court has at least begun the important process of checking our imperious president," said Todd Gaziano of the Pacific Legal Center to the Washington Post.
“There is nothing to lose and quite a bit to gain from cutting back on President Obama’s worst constitutional abuses of power.”
Bethan Owen is a writer for the Deseret News Moneywise and Opinion sections. Twitter: BethanO2