Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia prompted laughter in his court room after mocking President Barack Obama, calling him “self-interested.”
Scalia, who was nominated by Ronald Reagan in 1986, is considered by many to be the intellectual anchor of the Court’s conservative wing.
During oral arguments on Monday, Scalia argued that Obama violated the Constitution when he made appointments to the National Labor Relations Board two years ago. The case being discussed by the Supreme Court was National Labor Relations Board vs. Noel Canning.
Obama’s appointments were made while the Senate was away from Washington, DC. At this time, the Senate was not in recess but was holding a minute-long “session” each day.
Part of the Constitution that deals with presidential powers says, “The president shall have power to fill up all vacancies that may happen during the recess of the Senate, by granting commissions which shall expire at the end of their next session.”
Solicitor General Donald Verrilli argued that this part of the Constitution is ambiguous.
But Scalia did not agree. He said, “It’s been assumed to be ambiguous by self-interested presidents.” After the snarky remark, the court room became filled with laughter according to Talking Points Memo.
During a long back-and-forth, Scalia told Verrilli, “Let’s assume I think the text is clearly against you.” The conservative justice continued to insist that the Constitution does not give the President power to appoint individuals to government agencies unless the Senate is in official recess.
Scalia eventually concluded, “If you ignore the Constitution often enough, its meaning changes.”