Two years ago, while the Senate was not in recess, Obama took it upon himself to appoint staff members to the National Labor Relations Board — a violation of the Constitution.
“I decide when you’re in recess,” Obama told the Senate according to Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader.
The Supreme Court is finally hearing the case (National Relations Board v. Noel Canning) and during the oral arguments last Monday, Justice Scalia slammed Obama’s blatant overreach of power. He said that in order to justify these recess appointments, a “self-interested” president would have to blatantly “ignore the Constitution.”
From Talking Points Memo:
During oral arguments, Scalia shot back at an argument by U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli that the Constitution’s recess appointments clause is ambiguous enough to validate Obama’s temporary appointments.
“It’s been assumed to be ambiguous by self-interested presidents,” Scalia said, to “oohs” and laughs in the court room.
Scalia argued emphatically that the text of the Constitution does not permit presidents to appoint individuals to government agencies during pro forma sessions — when the Senate technically gavels in and out to fulfill a constitutional requirement, but does not conduct any business. He suggested the power ought to be restricted to official recesses.
“Let’s assume I think the text is clearly against you,” the Reagan-appointed justice told Verrilli during a lengthy back-and-forth early in the arguments, saying a president would have to “ignore the Constitution” to justify recess appointments during pro forma sessions.
Justice Scalia is right. However, it’s also important to note that all presidents are self-interested. All humans are self-interested, for that matter. Everyone wants to make themselves “better off,” but this can be subjective as we all have a different system of values. As Ayn Rand wrote in The Virtue of Selfishness, a person’s “‘interests’ depend on the kind of goals he chooses to pursue, his choice of goals depends on his desires, his desires depend on his values — and, for a rational man, his values depend on the judgement of his mind.” So, given that every person — every president — is self-interested (whether rationally or not), it’s important that the balance of power isn’t more heavily weighted towards them. This is exactly why imperial presidencies are illegal; this is why we have three co-equal branches of government: to avoid a concentration of power.
These recess appointments are certainly not the only time Obama has abused his executive power; he has made it clear that he has absolutely no intentions of following the law he was elected to uphold. He’s self-interested, corrupt, and striving to grasp an ever-increasing amount of authority — a dangerous recipe for a dictatorship.
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