Protecting against executive branch power grabs

-A A +A
By Congressman Bob Goodlatte

The Constitution is the law of the land and the balance of power defined by our Founding Fathers must be protected from power grabs by any one branch of government.  Recently, a federal appeals court overturned three controversial recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) made by President Obama last year.  In addition to finding the appointments unconstitutional, the court ruling means that the five-seat labor board lacks the necessary quorum to operate and must halt all activities until new members can be appointed and approved under the appropriate constitutional process. Now, the case could possibly head to the Supreme Court for review.


Our Constitution requires that the Senate consent to the appointment of high-level, policy-making positions in federal departments, agencies, boards, and commissions by the president.  As an exception, the president is allowed to make a recess appointment without Senate approval, if the Senate is no longer in session.  However, on January 4, 2012, three individuals were appointed to the NLRB during a pro-forma session of the Senate, which is a brief meeting sometimes only a few minutes in duration.  Despite arguments to the contrary by the White House, these appointments occurred while the Senate remained in session.  Therefore, the president did not receive the consent of the Senate as required by law. 


The court’s ruling makes clear that the Executive Branch cannot continue to bypass Congress.  While it is not new for presidents to make recess appointments, President Obama took this to an unprecedented level.  This abuse of the recess appointment process is in violation of the Constitution since the Senate was not in recess.  Not to mention that in bypassing the formal Senate confirmation process, Americans were denied the chance to properly examine the background of each nominee. 


The Constitution protects Americans’ liberties by creating a limited government that is divided into three separate branches. This “separation of powers” was designed to encourage each branch of government to serve as a watchdog over the powers of the other, so that no one branch abuses or acquires too much power.  Overreaches of power, like these recess appointments, are of great concern to me and many folks in the Sixth District.  The NLRB governs important labor issues and regulations for America’s workers and businesses.  It is critical for our economy and the American people to know that there is accountability in our government. Members of this important board must be appointed under the letter of the law. 


I am firmly committed to continued oversight of the Administration’s activities and policies.  I take seriously my oath to protect the U.S. Constitution and the system of government that it created.  I will continue to work to ensure that unparalleled power grabs by the Executive Branch are not allowed.