Reuters Completely and Willfully Ignores What “Recess Appointments” Are


In what appears to be the start of a recurring feature here at United Liberty, reporters David Ingram and Aruna Viswanatha at Reuters completely, totally, and I wonder if deliberately, mess up the entire situation around President Obama and his NLRB appointments, which were declared unconstitutional last week by the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. This is what they wrote:

While President Barack Obama considers his next move in one high-stakes legal fight to fill vacant jobs, his lawyers expect to go to court at least twice more to argue for his power to appoint when the U.S. Senate is not meeting.

Federal appeals courts in both Philadelphia and Richmond, Virginia, are likely to hear the issue of recess appointments in March, possibly during the same week.

The hearings will be an opportunity for Obama’s lawyers to rebound after a blockbuster ruling on Friday, when a court in Washington, D.C., held that three recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) were invalid.

Although the three-judge ruling on Friday upturned 190 years of understanding about how a president may fill vacant jobs, it will not take effect immediately.

Except there is one major, major flaw with their story: The United States Senate was in session.

That means that these were not true recess appointments; since the Senate was in session, Obama had no authority to just appoint these officers, they had to be confirmed by the Senate.

United Liberty Editor Jason Pye already explained the court’s decisions and the ramifications thereof. Now I’m not expecting these two Reuters reporters to actually read Jason’s piece (although they damn well should), but they definitely should have known that the Senate was in a pro forma session, which still counts for the purposes of this bit of Constitutional law, and that there was no adjournment.

If they want to see an example of a writer who did the research, they should look to Paula Dwyer at Bloomberg:

This sad state of affairs, which revolves around the constitutionality of recess appointments, was all but inevitable. Truth be told, Democrats started it.

During President George W. Bush’s tenure, Senate Democrats began holding pro-forma sessions whenever the Senate took a holiday break. A single senator would appear in the chamber every third day just long enough to bang the gavel and technically keep the Senate in session. In doing so, Democrats blocked Bush from making any recess appointments.

With Obama in the White House, Republicans turned the tables. To prevent him from making appointments after Congress started a holiday break in December 2011, House and Senate Republicans refused to formally adjourn.

The president named the three NLRB members and Cordray anyway on Jan. 4, 2012. The Senate was holding a pro-forma session, but because no real business was being done, the White House decided it was a sham and made the appointments.

The court held that the appointments were “constitutionally invalid” because the Senate wasn’t in recess at the time. The court moreover agreed with the bottling company’s argument that a recess only occurs in the period between one session of Congress and the next, not when members are simply absent, and especially not if the Senate says it hasn’t adjourned.

Is this so hard? Apparently so.

I never really bought into the right-wing’s myth that there is a liberal bias in the media. Although Tim Groseclose has done a good job turning media bias into a science, as I reported last year, and I do agree with him, it always seemed like an exaggeration. Yes, there is a moderate bias, but it’s not as crazy as conservatives thought it was (except at MSNBC, where instead it was dialed up to 11.)

But this is a prime example of why conservatives think there is a liberal media bias—because you have a couple of journalists who completely mess up a story and ignore basic facts, and in the process appear to be defending Obama and ignoring the validity of the opponents’ legal case. It’s disgraceful. And while the public may not read, it is still a major problem, and it is no way isolated to Reuters.

That’s a damn shame.

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