James R. Copland
On January 4, President Obama invoked executive recess appointment authority to place former Ohio attorney general Richard Cordray as the first director of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, as well as to place three new members of the National Labor Relations Board. Senate Republicans had previously refused to permit a confirmation vote on Cordray and one of the president's NLRB appointments.
The president's action was controversial because the Senate was technically not in recess -- having held "pro forma" sessions that appeared to prevent the President from exercising his constitutional recess appointment authority. White House lawyers advised the president that he had the constitutional authority to make recess appointments while the Senate is hosting "pro forma" sessions only for the purpose of blocking those appointments. The Department of Justice defended the legal authority of the President in a memorandum.
Various legal scholars in turn reacted to the president's action: Professors John Yoo and Laurence Tribe, on opposite sides of the issue, examined the scope of executive authority and congressional authority under a separation of powers framework; and Professor Richard Epstein looked to the text of the Recess Appointment Clause and challenged not just President Obama's appointments but the current practice of recess appointments more broadly.
This week on Point of Law, we are fortunate enough to host a lively back-and-forth discussion with Jason Mazzone, Gerald Baylin Professor of Law at Brooklyn Law School and Andrew M. Grossman, visiting legal fellow in The Heritage Foundation's Center for Legal and Judicial Studies and litigator at Baker & Hostetler. Mr. Mazzone and Mr. Grossman will explore the constitutionality of the president's controversial recess appointments, exploring legal arguments that have been advanced in the debate and others not yet expressed. The featured discussion will be available below; please check back throughout the week as the discussion continues.