On Friday, a ruling by a federal court of appeals panel confirmed the worst of what many of us in the Senate have warned about the overreach of President Obama’s administration: The court ruled that President Obama violated the Constitution when he used his recess power to appoint three individuals to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in January 2012.
After the ruling, NLRB chairman Mark Gaston Pearce issued a statement saying, in effect, the board is open for business. But the board should take down its “Open for Business” sign and replace it with one that says: “Help Wanted: Accepting Nominations.”
In slipping through these so-called “recess” appointments, the president’s administration attempted to skirt a constitutionally required step: seeking “the advice and consent of the Senate” for executive and judicial nominations as outlined in Article 2, Section 2, of the Constitution.
The Senate has always been the place that has insisted upon checks and balances and the liberty of the people as guaranteed by those checks and balances.
These actions fly in the face of the principle of separation of powers, and the very concept of checks and balances as bulwarks against an imperial president.
Remember the modesty of our first president — it was he who first asked to be called simply Mr. President, rather than some grand title. It was he who stepped down after two terms and went home to Mount Vernon. This aspect of his personal character has been imprinted upon the American character, preserving modesty and restraint on the part of the executive branch and maintaining a recognition that our system depends absolutely on checks and balances.
As President Obama’s administration has arrogated more power to the executive branch of government through its creation of countless “czars” — more than the Romanovs had — and its use of litigation and regulation to bypass the will of Congress, it is the American people who elected Congress’s that have lost the most.
Liberty is the defining aspect of the American character.
In Friday’s decision against the administration, Chief Judge Sentelle wrote: “The power of a written Constitution lies in its words. It is those words that were adopted by the people. When those words speak clearly, it is not up to us to depart from their meaning in favor of our own concept of efficiency, convenience, or facilitation of the functions of government.”
I hope this administration will listen and will respect a nation that has chosen liberty over tyranny — and president over king.
— Lamar Alexander is a U.S. senator from Tennessee and ranking member on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.