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The recess challenge

| Sunday, Feb. 3, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

A federal appellate court ruling that President Obama's January 2012 “recess” appointments of three National Labor Relations Board members were an unconstitutional end run around Congress is a victory for the Constitution.

The Framers intended recess appointments to fill vacancies only after Congress — then able to meet just a few months a year because traveling to Washington took so long — had finished a year's work and couldn't confirm nominees.

But particularly in the past 60 years or so, presidents have stretched that power to evade Senate unwillingness to confirm certain nominees, and lawmakers have gaveled in and out of brief “pro forma” sessions to evade adjourning for the year — as they were when those NLRB appointments were made.

The White House has been mum about appealing the ruling. But eventual Supreme Court review is likely. And it's difficult to imagine that Mr. Obama can prevail. Nor should he.

And if supposed constitutional scholar Obama didn't know better than to misuse recess appointments, he's no constitutional scholar. If he did know better, he committed an abuse of power that rises to the level of an impeachable offense.

Only when this president is held fully accountable for trashing constitutional separation of powers will the issues raised by his recess appointments be fully resolved.

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