Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down President Barack Obama’s 2012 “recess” appointments is the most significant shot against the bow to a sitting president since 1974, when the Court made a key decision related to Watergate.
“It’s the Supreme Court’s biggest rebuke of any president… since 1974, when it ordered President Nixon to produce the Watergate tapes,” Grassley said on the Senate floor.
The Nixon decision and Thursday’s decision on Obama’s illegal appointments were both unanimous. Grassley noted that even the two Supreme Court justices that were nominated by Obama — Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor — joined the majority in Thursday’s decision.
Grassley has been one of the loudest critics of Obama’s attempt to make four appointments to the government in January 2012, and took the Senate floor to revel in the Court’s decision to invalidate those appointments.
Back in 2012, Obama appointed three people to the National Labor Relations Board, and one person to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, without waiting for Senate confirmation. Obama argued at the time that the Senate was in recess, even though the Senate never agreed to go into recess.
Republicans immediately blasted the decision, and said it was another attempt by Obama to undermine the separation of powers. Grassley said the final ruling shows the GOP was right.
“No president in history had ever attempted to make recess appointments when the Senate said it was in session,” Grassley said. “And I’m a little surprised, since… President Obama has served in the Senate, that he would not know how this had been respected in the past by presidents.”
Grassley said the illegal appointments are just one of many ways Obama has tried to thwart the rule of law, but said the Supreme Court decision shows the system of checks and balances can still work.
“We should all be thankful, then, that the Supreme Court has reined in this kind of lawlessness on the part of this administration,” he said.
Grassley had harsh words for officials in the White House Office of Legal Counsel, for taking the position in 2012 that the “recess” appointments were legal.
“Those partisans in that office who defended that opinion and its author should be humbled, and should take back their misplaced praise, not that I expect them to do that,” he said.
“Perhaps now that the office has been so thoroughly humiliated, it will hopefully conclude that the department and the president would be better served by returning to the former role of that office as a servant of the law, and not a servant of the president.”
Grassley also noted that no Democratic senator argued against Obama at the time.
“Rather than protect the constitutional powers of the Senate and the separation of powers, they protected their party’s president,” Grassley said. “Those were not the Senate’s best moments.”
Grassley’s comments were echoed Thursday morning by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who called the Supreme Court ruling a “clear, clear rebuke to president’s brazen power grab.”
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) also welcomed the ruling on Thursday, and called it a “victory for the Constitution.”
“By invalidating these appointments, the Supreme Court has reaffirmed that the president cannot ignore the Constitution, and selectively interpret our rules and practices for his political purposes,” he said. “That these appointments were made to an agency notorious for putting the interests of Big Labor ahead of America’s workers makes this ruling good news for our economy.”
Boehner also said again that the House would soon “take action to defend the Constitution” by filing a law suit against Obama’s other attempts to disregard the rule of law.