This is a very big deal in constitutional law and contemporary politics.
The U.S. Appeals Court for the District of Columbia handed down a major decision today, one that shifts the modern balance of power between the president and Congress—and hands a stinging political defeat to President Obama and his allies in Big Labor.
The battleground: The National Labor Relations Board—the powerful independent agency that's overseen the contentious relations between Big Business and Big Labor in America since 1933. The NLRB has long been a partisan political battleground—Democratic presidents usually try to pack the board with union allies, Republican presidents usually make business-friendly appointments.
The issue: Are President Obama's three appointments to the NLRB legal? Did he have the constitutional authority to make those appointments in the manner he did—or hid he exceed his power as president?
The court's answer: Obama acted unconstitutionally.
The background: Last January, after years of political combat over the NLRB and facing fierce Republican resistance to his agenda, President Obama made three appointments to the NLRB. Under the law, presidential appointments to the board must be confirmed by the Senate. But this time, Obama tried an end-run around Congress: a "recess appointment."
Presidents have always made "recess appointments"—because the Constitution provides for them. It's right there in Article II: "[t]he President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate."