Supreme Court Ruling on Obama’s NLRB Appointments Reaffirms Senate’s Constitutional Role

The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled that three appointments President Barack Obama made to the National Labor Relations Board in 2012 were unconstitutional because they were made without required U.S. Senate participation.

The case before the court was brought by a soft drink bottler in Washington state who had lost a collective bargaining case before the NLRB. The bottler challenged the legitimacy of three NLRB members because the president bypassed the Senate’s “advice and consent” role in presidential appointments.

Obama made recess appointments of Sharon Block, Richard Griffin, and Terrence Flynn. He simply decided to declare the Senate in recess when there weren’t enough senators present to conduct business. But the court said Obama unconstitutionally overstepped his authority when he attempted to use the Constitution’s provision on recess appointments to fill positions.

Block was the deputy assistant secretary for congressional affairs in the Department of Labor. She once worked for the late Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy.

Griffin was a lawyer for labor unions including the AFL-CIO and the International Union of Operating Engineers, and Flynn was a Republican lawyer specializing in the National Labor Relations Act, the law the NLRB is tasked with enforcing. They no longer are board members and the ruling does not affect any current appointments.

The court ruled 9-0 that Congress, not Obama, decides when it is in recess.

Obama claimed Republicans were blocking his appointments and he had to take the action to allow the NLRB to function. When asked at a news conference about the constitutionality of Block and Griffin’s appointments and the fact that their names didn’t even show up on a White House appointments website, then-White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Republicans were blocking appointments.

Carney said the president decided to go ahead and preempt Congress by appointing them in order to allow the NLRB to function.

That brought a response. “It’s hard to argue that the Senate was obstructing these Democratic nominees when they don’t even appear on the administration’s own list of nominations and appointments,” U.S. Chamber of Commerce labor policy specialist Glenn Spencer told The Daily Caller.

NLRB Chairman Mark Gaston Pearce in a statement today said the federal agency is analyzing the impact of the decision on any cases the recess appointees participated in.

“Today, the National Labor Relations Board has a full contingent of five Senate-confirmed members who are prepared to fulfill our responsibility to enforce the National Labor Relations Act,” Pearce said. “The Agency is committed to resolving any cases affected by today’s decision as expeditiously as possible.”

-Dana Beyerle