Supreme Court: Obama 'Lacked the Authority' to Appoint 3 NLRB Members

By Susan Jones | June 26, 2014 | 10:55 AM EDT

This June 27, 2012, file photo shows an American flag in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

( - One day after House Speaker John Boehner announced that congressional Republicans will sue President Obama for exceeding his executive authority and failing to "faithfully execute the laws," the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Obama "lacked the authority" to make three appointments to the National Labor Relations Board in 2012.

"Pleased with today’s #NLRB ruling. Victory for the #Constitution & against president’s overreach," Boehner tweeted shortly after the opinion was handed down.

In a unanimous decision, the justices decided that the Senate was not in formal recess when Obama announced the three "recess appointments."

Obama, frustrated by the lack of Senate confirmation for his NLRB nominees, argued that the Senate was on an extended holiday break, holding brief, "pro-forma" sessions every three days as a gimmick to prevent the Senate from going into recess.

The justices rejected that argument. 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.

While Congress has taken short breaks for almost 200 years -- and there have been many thousands of recess appointments in that time  -- "we have not found a single example of a recess appointment made during an intra-session recess that was shorter than 10 days," the opinion says.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) hailed Thursday's ruling:

“Today, the Supreme Court emphatically rejected President Obama’s brazen efforts to circumvent the Constitution, bypass the people’s elected representatives, and govern above the law," Hatch said in a statement.

"The Court’s unanimous decision demonstrates how the President’s actions contradicted both constitutional text and longstanding precedents that enshrine the Senate’s legitimate role in federal appointments. The Court has reaffirmed the Senate’s vital advice-and-consent role as a check on executive abuses.

"I applaud the Court’s willingness to stand up to President Obama’s flagrantly unconstitutional power grab.  This decision strengthens my determination to stand up for the separation of powers against the President’s disturbing pattern of lawlessness.”

Hatch earlier joined 41 other senators in filing a friend-of-the-court brief in the NLRB v. Noel Canning case. The brief argued that Obama's appointments were unconstitutional.

(The Associated Press provided some of the information used in this report.)