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Obama Violates the Constitution

On January 4, 2012 Obama appointed three members of the National Labor Relations

Obama violates the Constitution

Obama violates the Constitution

Board while the Senate was on vacation for the holidays.  This allowed him, in theory, to make the appointments without having the Senate’s approval. The Republicans argued that this was a violation of the Constitution because they weren’t really recessed; they held Pro-Forma sessions every other day.  Pro-Forma sessions are when the Senate or another governmental body holds a very short period in session in order to avoid letting a president make recess appointments.  On January 25, 2013 news reports stated that the US Court of Appeals for the D.C Circuit had ruled that the appointments that Obama had made were a violation of the Constitution.

The court defined a recess as “only during the breaks between formal year-long sessions of congress, not just any informal break when law makers leave town.” When Obama made his appointments, the Senate was on extended holiday break only and this, according to the Constitution, did not qualify as an opportunity to make recess appointments. Furthermore, “the president can bypass the Senate only when administration vacancies occur during a recess.” The vacancies on the labor board that Obama filled had been open for months before he chose to fill them leading me to assume that he waited to do this only to avoid any input from the Senate.

The Constitution was written to create a framework for the United States.  As we have discussed in class, the Constitution allows for an Executive, Legislative and Judicial Branch.  The Constitution specifies how laws should be passed, how appointments should be made and how courts should be run. Interpreting the constitution in such a way as to manipulate the meaning so that it benefits only the party in power directly contradicts the intent of the Constitution.

The checks and balances created by the Constitution are something that should not be ignored.  Republican’s and Democrat’s views have become so extremely different that the checks and balances system has blocked much of anything being accomplished but it is still an integral part of the Constitution.  No one seems willing to compromise and the opposing party refuses to approve their policies. Obama’s response to this was to manipulate the system so that his choices would not be subject to the approval of the Senate.  As said by Chief Judge David Sentelle, “allowing the president to define the scope of his own appointment power would eviscerate the Constitution’s separation of powers.” Other presidents have used the same tactics to appoint their own choices to vacancies, but the practice has evolved to such a degree that our leadership is straying from the original intent of the constitution.

If we want to remain a Democratic society, we need to observe what the intentions of the Constitution were when it was written.  The constitution created a back up plan for when vacancies occurred and a Senate was not available to approve the appointment.  Obama used the back up plan to avoid following what the Constitution intended, almost as if he wanted sole power like a dictator.  If this ruling stands, more than 600 board decisions over just the past year could be invalidated.  Isn’t it time that we go back and read the Constitution and consider how this country was founded in the first place? Looking for loopholes in the Constitution is not how we should run the country!

  1. govsarahv
    February 22, 2013 at 11:11 am

    Good job. I enjoyed reading your blog! I liked your picture, it made me want to read your blog. I also liked how you used our studies of the constitution for your connection back to class. The only thing that I would suggest is better organization in the paragraphs! At some points I was a little confused. But, overall you did a great job!

  2. govamandak
    February 24, 2013 at 9:04 pm

    Very nice! I had not heard about this story at all, so it was good to hear about this. The fact that the President appointed people to vacant positions without the consent of the Senate does seem very unconstitutional. I also liked your last sentence, it really made an impact and gave me the image of someone finding a way to wiggle his way out of a situation he didn’t like. The only thing i have to add is maybe reread the last paragraph and look for grammatical errors. But over all a very good post!

  3. Mr. Blue
    February 26, 2013 at 10:41 am

    This is an interesting topic and a nice blog post. If you don’t mind, I have a couple of comments I’d like to share.

    You write: “Interpreting the constitution in such a way as to manipulate the meaning so that it benefits only the party in power directly contradicts the intent of the Constitution.” And you add that “we need to observe what the intentions of the Constitution were when it was written.”

    If I read you correctly, what you are advocating is what is sometimes called an “original intent” approach to the Constitution. According to that approach, a provision of the Constitution means whatever the writers of the Constiution intended it to mean. And we can discover their intentions by reading their other writings. (Side question #1: What if two authors of the Constitution have contrary understandings of a Constitutional provision? Which intention do we go with? Side Question #2: What if a signer of the Constitution, and hence a “Founding Father,” didn’t actually write any of the Constitution? That is, what if he simply agreed to what other had written? Do his intentions still matter? And if his intentions still matter, then why don’t the intentions of the state legislators who ratified the Constiution matter? And if their intentions matter . . .) Interestingly, the court which struck down President Obama’s appointments did not rely on an original intent approach to the Constitution.

    Here’s the relevant part of the court’s opinion:

    “When interpreting a constitutional provision, we must look to the natural meaning of the text as it would have been understood at the time of the ratification of the Constitution. [. . .] Then, as now, the word ‘the’ was and is a definite article. See 2 Samuel Johnson, A Dictionary of the English Language 2041 (1755) (defining ‘the’ as an ‘article noting a particular thing’ (emphasis added)). Unlike ‘a’ or ‘an,’ that definite article suggests specificity. As a matter of cold, unadorned logic, it makes no sense to adopt the Board’s proposition that when the Framers said ‘the Recess,’ what they really meant was ‘a recess.’ This is not an insignificant distinction. In the end it makes all the difference.”

    Notice that no mention is made of the authors’ intentions. Rather, the meaning of the relevant English words on or around 1787 is all that matters. This approach to the Constitution is often called “strict constructionism.” For the strict constructionist, all any interpreter of the Constitution needs is a contemporary dictionary.

    For an interesting discussion of whether the court got it right, see this post Mark Liberman, a linguist at the University of Pennsylvania: http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=4444

    • govmorganw
      February 27, 2013 at 9:19 pm

      Thank you for leaving a comment on my blog. You obviously spent a lot of time and thought posting it. Perhaps when I said “intent”, I should have said meaning. I think we should focus solely on what the actual written words are in the Constitution. We could argue all day long on the intent because neither of us where there nor did we write the constitution ourselves. Therefore, our alternative in this day and age, is to interpret the meaning of the Constitution as best we can as it remains the frame work of our nation. Given our lack of knowledge of intent, we must rely on the written word. This leads me to your second question.Whoever wrote, drafted or signed the constitution is not relevant to the interpretation of the meaning today. The Constitution is still our primary source of “code” for life in the United States.

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