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Did President Bush Overstep His Authority???

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Guest DC Government Worker

The court refused to hear a trio of cases challenging the "recess appointment" of William Pryor to the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year. The appeals argued that Pryor's temporary appointment was an end-run around the Senate's right to confirm or reject judicial nominees.


The justices' move avoids a contentious issue on the eve of a widely speculated vacancy on the court. If they had intervened, it would have set up a constitutional showdown over White House powers at a time when ailing Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist is considered a strong prospect to step down this term.


The Constitution gives presidents authority to fill vacancies for a year or two during a Senate "recess." At issue was whether a "recess" means whenever the Senate is not meeting, such as during short intra-session breaks, or only during the Senate's annual adjournment at year's end.


In a statement accompanying the cert denial, Justice John Paul Stevens emphasized the court did not necessarily reject the case because the appeal lacked merit. He suggested justices might be interested in hearing the case later when the appeals have run their full course in the lower courts.


"It would be a mistake to assume that our disposition of this petition constitutes a decision on the merits of whether the president has the constitutional authority to fill future (judicial) vacancies, such as vacancies on this court," Stevens wrote.


Earlier this month, Bush renominated Pryor, whose term is scheduled to expire at the end of the year, for a lifetime appointment on the 11th Circuit.


"The president asserts the power to make 'recess appointments' of judges during any break of the Senate -- including, literally, even a break for lunch," wrote Thomas Goldstein, a Washington attorney representing Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, in the cases.


"That unprecedented conception of the recess appointments power obviously vitiates the cardinal authority of the Senate to pass on the president's nominees," he stated.


Bush administration lawyer Paul Clement countered that it has been long-standing practice for presidents of both parties to make recess appointments, including 12 Supreme Court justices, anytime the Senate is not meeting.

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