The White House brushed off a Supreme Court ruling that President Obama had violated the Constitution when he filled vacancies on the National Labor Relations Board, saying the administration was "pleased" by aspects of the decision upholding that the president could make appointments in some circumstances.
"We are pleased that the Supreme Court today actually ruled the president does in fact have the authority to make recess appointments," White House communications director Jen Palmieri told MSNBC. "There were questions about the dates on which the appointments happened, but they did reaffirm this is a right and an authority that presidents just in general have so we think it's important that they upheld that."
The White House had claimed that the Senate was, in effect, in recess when it was in "pro-forma" sessions, where the chamber is briefly called to order and almost immediately adjourned every few days. Durin a recess, the president is constitutionally able to appoint judges and officials to positions that would normally be subject to confirmation hearings.
Republicans had used the pro-forma sessions and their filibuster powers to keep Obama from appointing the quorum the five-person panel needed to operate.
The justices found in a 5-4 decision that they agreed a 10-day pro-forma session could be considered a recess, and allow the administration to employ the recess appointment clause. But the justices also voted 9-0 that Obama's appointments to the NLRB were unconstitutional.
Palmieri said the White House wasn't concerned about that ruling because the individuals in question "had already been upheld through other means."
"So it doesn't necessarily have an actual impact on the people who had been recessed appointed," Palmieri said. "But at least the court did uphold that we have this authority to do so."
Under a deal designed to prevent filibuster reform struck last summer, Senate Republicans agreed they would allow votes on two replacement NLRB members who replaced the appointments deemed unconstitutional.
That truce held for only a few months before Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), frustrated by GOP efforts to block nominees to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, employed the "nuclear option" and reformed filibuster rules.
Despite the White House's suggestion that it was not concerned by the court's ruling, Republicans have championed the decision as a rebuke of the president's use of executive power.
"This administration has a tendency to abide by laws that it likes and to disregard those it doesn’t," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a statement. "In this case, that disturbing and dangerous tendency extended to the Constitution itself. Whether it’s recess appointments or Obamacare, this troubling approach does serious damage to the rule of law, and the Court’s decision is a clear rebuke of the administration’s behavior."