Justice Department: Obama recess appointments are legal

The Justice Department released a 23-page opinion today that defends the legality of President Barack Obama’s appointments of several officials last week, while Congress was in recess, the Associated Press reported.

On Jan. 4, Obama made four recess appointments, naming three new members of the National Labor Relations Board and selecting Richard Cordray to be the first director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the AP reported.

More from GlobalPost: Obama recess appointment: Richard Cordray to lead Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

The Senate is supposed to be out of session for more than three days before the president can make recess appointments, Bloomberg News reported. To prevent Obama from exercising this power, congressional Republicans refused to formally adjourn for the holiday season and have been holiding brief pro forma sessions every three days during the break.

According to CNN:

The Justice Department said that the president has the authority to make recess appointments during pro forma Senate sessions in which no business is to be conducted. It said the brief pro-forma sessions called for the purpose of preventing recess appointments "do not have the legal effect of interrupting an intrasession recess long enough to qualify as a 'Recess of the Senate under the Recess Appointments Clause.' "

"We conclude that while Congress can prevent the president from making any recess appointments by remaining continuously in session and available to receive and act on nominations, it cannot do so by conducting pro forma sessions during a recess," the opinion said, according to Reuters.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R.-Iowa, immediately expressed his displeasure, CNN reported. "The Justice Department opinion is unconvincing. Its conclusion is at odds with the text of the Constitution and the administration's own previous statements," he said in a statement released today. "This is clearly an escalation in a pattern of contempt for the elected representatives of the American people."

Grassley added, "the Senate will need to take action to check and balance President Obama's blatant attempt to circumvent the Senate and the Constitution.”

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