The Washington Post

Republicans cheer Supreme Court decision on recess appointments

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) led the GOP's legal challenge to the recess appointments. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press)

Republican lawmakers on Thursday cheered the U.S. Supreme Court's unanimous ruling that President Obama lacked constitutional authority to make high-level government appointments when he declared the Senate in recess and unable to act on the nominations.

The decision is rewarding for Republicans on two fronts: They see the ruling as evidence that the Obama administration has been selectively enforcing federal laws and excessively using executive actions, and they get to crow that a legal challenge they actively supported has prevailed.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who led the GOP's legal challenge to the recess appointments, called the decision a rejection of Obama's "brazen power-grab." He added in his statement: "All Americans should be grateful for the Court’s rebuke of the administration — and the Democratic Majority in the Senate should be embarrassed by its failure, yet again, to stand up to the president and to defend the Senate’s uniquely important role under our Constitution."

But Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) sought to discount the importance of the ruling, noting that Senate Democrats voted last fall to change the chamber's rules of procedure to make it easier for the majority party to confirm a president's nominees by requiring just a simple majority of senators — not 60 — to proceed to final debate on a nominee. In a statement, Reid said the ruling "will have no effect on our ability to continue ensuring that qualified nominees receive an up-or-down vote."

The Supreme Court's decision was rare, in that the justices rarely attempt to intercede in disputes between the White House and Congress. As The Post's Robert Barnes writes today, "While the current battle is between Obama and Senate Republicans, the tension has existed equally when a Republican has occupied the White House and Democrats objected to his appointments."

But with a Democrat in the White House, Republicans used Thursday's ruling as an opportunity to  again sharply criticize Obama.

“This ruling is a victory for the Constitution, and against President Obama’s aggressive overreach, which challenges our ability to effectively represent the people," House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement.

Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), a leading conservative, called the decision "a victory for the rule of law in this country and a repudiation of President Obama’s blatant disregard for the constitutional limits of his office."

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said the "unanimous decision makes it clear that President Obama acted without any legitimate authority and his power grab is outside any meaningful debate about the balance of power between the executive and legislative branches."

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) also said in a statement that the ruling was "a powerful rebuke" of Obama, adding that "our founders wanted a President, not a king, and our Constitution is written to protect against precisely the kind of overreach this president demonstrated with his so-called recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board."

Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) went further, suggesting that “as a former senator and lecturer on constitutional law, this president should have known better." He added that Obama "has frequently boasted of his intention to bypass Congress on a range of issues, and I hope this unanimous rebuke will cause him to reflect on what it means to exercise executive authority with respect for the elected representatives of the American people."

Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.



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