WASHINGTON (AP) — In an embarrassing setback for President Barack Obama, a federal appeals court today ruled that he violated the Constitution in making recess appointments last year, a decision that would severely curtail the president's ability to bypass the Senate to fill administration vacancies.
The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said Obama did not have the power to make three recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board because the Senate was officially in session — and not in recess — at the time. If the decision stands, it could invalidate hundreds of board decisions made over the past year.
The court said the president could only fill vacancies with the recess-appointment procedure if the openings arise when the Senate is in an official recess, which it defined as the once-a-year break between sessions of Congress.
The White House had no immediate comment but is expected to appeal the decision. The same issue is currently before several other federal appeals courts.
The ruling also threw into question Obama's recess appointment of Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Cordray's appointment, also made on Jan. 4, 2012, has been challenged in a separate case.