White House defends recess appointments

The White House said Monday it remained "confident" the Supreme Court would uphold President Obama's Senate recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

"In our view, we're confident that the courts will uphold the president's authority and look forward to resolution of this matter," White House press secretary Jay Carney said.

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Earlier Monday, the Supreme Court heard arguments on the constitutionality of a trio of appointments the president made in 2012 during a pro-forma session of the Senate.

Presidents are constitutionally allowed to fill vacancies during an official recess, but by holding the pro-forma sessions — in which the chamber is briefly called to order and then quickly adjourned by a small gathering of lawmakers — the Senate had hoped to obstruct the president from filling vacancies.

Obama, frustrated by the obstruction, appointed members to the board nonetheless in a highly controversial move. Last year, the White House argued that there was a "significant precedent" for intra-session recess appointments.

But justices on the high court seemed skeptical on Monday, with even liberal justices voicing doubt during the extended session of oral arguments.

“The history is entirely on the Senate’s side, not on your side,” Justice Elena Kagan, an Obama appointee, said.

Solicitor General Donald Verrilli argued that to overturn the appointments would effectively end recess appointment power.

"You write it out of the Constitution," he said.

The court is expected to rule in June. If Obama's appointments were ruled unconstitutional, it could mean the overturn of hundreds of NLRB decisions made while those appointees were serving. 

—Ben Goad contributed.