by Nicole Flatow
In recess appointing Richard Cordray to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and three others to the National Labor Relations Board, President Obama has acted “sensibly and soundly to defend his own prerogatives,” UNC Chapel Hill constitutional law professor Michael Gerhardt said during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing Wednesday.
During a more than three-hour hearing that featured sharp questioning and a host of objections to President Obama’s actions by Sen. Mike Lee, Gerhardt explained the clear constitutionality of President Obama’s action, and praised the Office of Legal Counsel’s recent memorandum defending the legality of the action as a “perfectly good example” of the kind of nonpartisan legal analysis performed by the office.
After dismissing arguments that President Obama did not act during an actual “recess” because the Senate held pro forma sessions every three days, Gerhardt went further to explain that Obama has an affirmative constitutional duty to enforce the laws faithfully, which he was aiming to effectuate in making recess appointments.
“No doubt in this case the president considered that if he didn’t act there would be laws left unenforced -- laws that he’s obviously trying to do what he can to put into implementation,” Gerhardt said.
Some of the other witnesses testified that the recess appointments have resulted in uncertainty for businesses, because decisions made by the NLRB and actions taken by the CFPB may be invalidated if legal challenges to Obama’s appointments are successful.
But Gerhardt agreed with Rep. Danny Davis during questioning that all actions and major pieces of legislation are subject to legal challenge, and there is nothing unique about Obama’s recess appointments.
“It’s sort of a false premise to say that recess appointments are likely to create litigation when the litigation is likely to take place in any event,” Davis said. “Whether these are recess appointees or any other kind of appointees, individuals still have the option to ask for judicial review.”
Around the same time that this hearing was occurring, the Senate Banking Committee was also reviving the issue of Obama’s recess appointments during an oversight hearing involving Richard Cordray.
As The National Law Journal’s Jenna Greene explains: