"Recess Appointments" Curtailed

(NBC News)  The Supreme Court handed down a key ruling Thursday that scaling back a presidential authority as old as the republic.

By unanimous decision, Justices voted to limit a president's power to fill high level vacancies with temporary appointments when the White House and the Senate are controlled by opposite parties.

The case arose in January 2012 when President Obama invoked the Constitution's provision giving him the power to make temporary appointments when the senate is in recess.

At that time he appointed three people to the National Labor Relations board.

However, the high court said the Senate was not actually in a formal recess when Obama acted, holding that it's up to both houses of Congress to define when they're in session.

Justice Stephen Breyer said in his majority opinion that a Congressional break has to last at least 10 days to be considered a recess under the Constitution.

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