On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court voted to restrict the president’s appointment powers to fill top government posts on a temporary basis while nominees await the Senate confirmation process for permanent placement.
In a 6-to-2 ruling, the court voted that the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) former acting general counsel Lafe Solomon, who was appointed by the Obama administration in 2010, should not have been allowed to serve while pending Senate confirmation for the job on a permanent basis, reports The Hill.
The court ruled that Solomon’s appointment by Obama violated the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, in which a person cannot serve as the acting head of a federal agency once the president nominates him or her to permanently serve in the role if it is a position that requires U.S. Senate confirmation.
The 1998 law makes the exception that a nominee can serve on a temporary basis if they previously served for 90 days as a “first assistant” to the person whom they would succeed.
Obama maintained that Solomon met the exception since he served as a director at the NLRB, though it was at a different office. In response, Obama’s White House legal counsel argued that a ruling against Solomon’s appointment would obstruct future presidents’ ability to temporarily fill top government positions.
Solomon’s role at the NLRB first came under question when SW General Inc., an Arizona-based company, faced accusations by Solomon’s office of unfair labor practices. The company argued that Solomon’s service violated the law, which made the complaint void. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in favor of the company.
Obama eventually revoked the nomination after it stalled in the Senate confirmation process for over two years, says the report.
Chief Justice John Roberts stated that under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, Solomon’s service in the role did not fit within the law’s exception rules.
“This does not mean that the duties of general counsel to the NLRB needed to go unperformed,” Roberts wrote. “The president could have appointed another person to serve as the acting officer in Solomon’s place.”
Roberts also dismissed the Obama administration’s argument that this ruling would obstruct presidents from nominating officials in acting positions. He added that three presidents since the law’s passing nominated 112 officials to permanent government positions after serving in an acting capacity.
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