US & Canada

US Supreme Court limits presidential appointments

Two men talk as the sun rises over the Supreme Court in Washington 23 June 2014 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Some former Supreme Court justices were appointed during a recess - but were later confirmed by the Senate

The US Supreme Court has ruled on how the president can make appointments while Congress is in recess.

In a unanimous ruling, the court ruled three appointments made by Barack Obama during 2012 were illegal, as the Congress was technically in session.

The White House had argued the Senate was holding three-day sham sessions during a holiday break specifically to block appointments.

Recess appointments can last no more than two years.

Many appointees - including two Supreme Court justices and a Federal Reserve chairman - have won confirmation from the Senate after their initial appointments.

The court case, known as Noel Canning v National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), was filed by a Washington state bottling company that argued an NLRB decision against it was not valid because the board members were among those appointed in the 2012 holiday break.

Thursday's decision could invalidate some of the NLRB decisions made since those appointments.

The ruling also effectively means political opponents in the Senate have the ability to block the confirmation of judges and the leaders of independent agencies like the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

Presidents of both parties have used the recess power to circumvent lawmakers who refuse to vote on potential nominees.

A separate federal law gives the president the power to appoint acting heads of Cabinet-level departments to keep the government running.

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