Thursday, June 27, 2013

Summer Recess

 In nearly 25 years of Los Angeles living, I never missed the “seasons.”  They exist in California – just on a more nuanced scale.  You have pilot season, upfronts, festivals and of course the most exciting season of all:  awards! As last week’s solstice marked the start of summer now that I’m on the East coast I find it remarkable that people’s way of life actually adapts to this variance on the calendar.

Churches, offices and even retail businesses have “summer” hours.  Traffic flows towards water-based communities with regularity – and even the local transit authority has a seasonal train down to “The Cape.”  It feels quaint somehow, almost as if I’m on the back lot of a summer blockbuster.  People take it quite seriously though…and it’s not unique to the Boston area.  There was a similar surge of outdoor activities during my summer in Minnesota last year.  (There Mother Nature has it out for you year round so people will do anything during the handful of days when it’s temperate.)
This is also the season of Supreme Court rulings and plenty is being opined on the recent spate of decisions.  Next SCOTUS season, though, is what has caught my attention.  The Court has already announced that they are going to review the recess appointments of President Obama.  At issue is when the Senate is in “recess” – is it when they’re not conducting business or when they are out of town or when the session is over?  Depending on whether the body is in recess (intra-session or inter-session) is where this case lies.
President Obama appointed several people to the National Labor Relations Board when the Senate was technically in session, but wasn’t able to meet to fulfill its role to ‘advise and consent.’  They were in session because for the majority of the Obama presidency every three days a Republican goes into the Senate Chamber, calls the senate into session, and the adjourns.  They weren't able to 'advise and consent' because everybody else was out of town.
The framers of the country intended key appointments to be made with the ‘checks-and-balances’ in place.  When one branch of Government refuses to participate, we either have gridlock or another branch will step up it’s role.  In December 2011 that’s exactly what President Obama said he would do:  “Where Congress is not willing to act we’re going to go ahead and do it ourselves.”  So he did – and now we’ll see what the third branch has to say about it.
Wikipedia notes that according to the Congressional Research Service Recess Appointments of recent Presidents.  (They aren’t distinguished between inter and intra-appointments.)
·         Ronald Reagan 240
·         George Bush 77
·         Bill Clinton 139
·         George W. Bush 171
·         Barak Obama 32 (so far)
The Supreme Court season is not a short period of time - its impact is long lasting.  Long after the Obama Presidential Library has opened future residents of the Oval Office will be impacted by this gamesmanship between the Legislative and Executive branches.  Did either side think of the consequences?  What if the appointments are invalid?  Does that mean that all of the decisions and actions that those who were appointed get automatically rescinded since they weren’t legitimately appointed?  (The company who brought the lawsuit hopes so – because they didn’t like the ruling they got from the Labor Relations Board and that’s why they brought the suit.)
So then potentially all decisions from all recess appointees from all time could be null and void.  Well, that's a nifty way to shut down the Government.  It’d cause chaos and gridlock that could implode the government.  Sounds like a post-season start to the Obama legacy.

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