"Allowing the president to define the scope of his own appointment power would eviscerate the Constitution's separation of powers," Chief Judge Sentelle wrote. Following Obama’s line of thinking, the judge added, "the president could make appointments any time the Senate so much as broke for lunch."
The issue – and this particular case – are fraught with partisan politics.
The three judges ruling unanimously Friday are Republican appointees.
Obama is pushing the NLRB in a pro-union direction, Republicans contend. Democrats say that’s just a corrective to the pro-business bent of the NLRB under President George W. Bush. The NLRB is an independent agency that conducts elections for labor-union representation and investigates unfair labor practices.
"With this ruling, the DC Circuit has soundly rejected the Obama Administration's flimsy interpretation of the law, and will go a long way toward restoring the constitutional separation of powers," Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) of Utah said in a statement.
“This is a very important decision about the separation of powers,” Carl Tobias, a constitutional law professor at the University of Richmond in Virginia, told the Associated Press. “The court’s reading has limited the president’s ability to counter the obstruction of appointments by a minority in the Senate that has been pretty egregious in the Obama administration.”