Supreme Court justices took a dim view Monday of President Obama’s claim of almost unlimited powers to appoint top government officials, saying he appeared to be breaking with the founders’ vision of separation of powers between the branches of government when he tried an end-run around the Senate in 2012.
Both liberal and conservative justices seemed skeptical of the president’s claim, though they struggled with how far to go in deciding the limits of a president’s recess appointment power.
If they ruled narrowly, they could simply overturn Mr. Obama’s 2012 appointments by finding he tried to act when the Senate considered itself still in session. But the court could act more broadly and rule that the president’s recess powers only apply to a narrow set of positions that become vacant when the Senate has finished business for the year, and that the president can only fill those jobs during that same recess break.
Obama administration Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli urged the justices not to interfere with the system, saying that even if it violates the Constitution’s language, the executive and legislative branches over the decades have reached a balance that could be upset by the court’s intervention.
“We have, I would submit, an equilibrium that has emerged,” he said. “What we are advocating here is the status quo.”
He acknowledged that the recess appointment power has become a “safety valve” for the president.
But Justice Stephen Breyer said the administration is trying to use the recess powers as an end-run around senators who want to block appointments — something the justice said wasn’t part of the Constitution’s plan.
“I can’t find anything so far that says the purpose of this clause has anything to do with political fights between Congress and the president,” he said.
Read the full story at the Washington Times.
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