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Even now the man is staying in office till the end of the month. Maybe he needs the money, having been reduced to working part-time for the pizzeria he used to own. But that’s no reason for delaying his departure. It’s not even an acceptable excuse. It’s pitiful, like much else about the poor sap.

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Texarkana Gazette, Jan. 14, 2014

Recess appointments

The U.S. Constitution requires those appointed to cabinet-level and other senior federal positions by the president be confirmed by a vote of the Senate.

However, when the Senate is not in session, the president has the power to fill vacancies that occur during the recess. These appointments are either confirmed by the Senate or expire with the next Senate session.

It sounds pretty straightforward, but in practice, recess appointments can be anything but.

For example, exactly what does “recess” mean? Does it mean the time between formal sessions? Does it apply to intrasession recesses, and if so, does it require the Senate to be out for a minimum period of time, or is it anytime the body adjourns for any period of time, no matter how briefly?

Presidents have increasingly used the authority to push through nominees who had little chance of being confirmed, causing more controversy.

Such is the case now before the U.S. Supreme Court. On Monday, the justices heard arguments over three intrasession appointments made in 2012 by President Barack Obama to the National Labor Relations Board.

The Obama administration argues such appointments are within the president’s power.

Republican lawmakers say intrasession appointments are not valid. However, there have been many such appointments by both Republican and Democratic presidents in the past without much outcry.

So far, three federal courts have said the president overstepped his bounds and the Senate was not actually in recess when he made the appointment. And it looks like he might lose in the nation’s highest court as well.

Both conservative and liberal justices questioned the practice of intrasession appointments - and seemed doubtful it should be allowed to continue.

Even if the president loses, it won’t be as bad as it could have been. New rules in the Senate make it harder to block nominations for high office.

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