The Constitutional Validity of Pro Forma Recess Appointments: A Bright-Line Test Using a Substance-over-Form Approach

Author:Alex N. Kron
Position:J.D. Candidate, The University of Iowa College of Law, 2013
Pages:397-419
397
The Constitutional Validity of Pro Forma
Recess Appointments: A Bright-Line Test
Using a Substance-over-Form Approach
Alex N. Kron
ABSTRACT: In 2007, the Senate began using pro forma sessions in an
attempt to curtail the President’s recess-appointment power. On January 4,
2012, President Obama challenged the propriety of pro forma sessions by
issuing four recess appointments. Due to the nature of the appointments, a
constitutional challenge appears evident. This Note addresses the
constitutional validity of the appointments, taking into account the
constitutional and historical framework of recess appointments and
evaluating both the short- and long-term effects of a resolution. This Note
recommends a bright-line approach in which recess appointments are valid
when the Senate has failed to meet a quorum and has conducted no official
business for four consecutive days.
I. INTRODUCTION ...................................................................................... 399
II. BACKGROUND ........................................................................................ 401
A. CONSTITUTIONAL FRAMEWORK ......................................................... 401
1. “Vacancies that May Happen” ............................................... 401
2. “Recess of the Senate” ............................................................ 403
B. ADVENT OF PRO FORMA SESSIONS ...................................................... 405
C. PRO FORMA RECESS APPOINTMENTS ................................................. 407
1. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ............................... 407
2. National Labor Relations Board ........................................... 409
III. RELEVANT CONSIDERATIONS IN DEVELOPING A SOLUTION ................... 410
A. IMPLICATIONS ON AGENCIES AND SEPARATION OF POWERS ................. 410
B. CONSTITUTIONAL VALIDITY OF PRO FORMA RECESS APPOINTMENTS ... 411
1. Arguments Opposing Constitutional Validity: Necessity
of Maintaining Checks and Balances .................................... 411
J.D. Candidate, The University of Iowa College of Law, 2013; B.S.B. A., Creighton
University, 2010. I would like to thank the student writers and editors of Volumes 97 and 98 of
the Iowa Law Review for their help on this Note.
398 IOWA LAW REVIEW [Vol. 98:397
2. Arguments Supporting Constitutional Validity: Recess
Appointments Demand a Substance-over-Form
Approach ................................................................................ 414
IV. RESOLUTION: PREDICTABILITY AND SUBSTANCE .................................... 416
A. FAILURES OF A FORMALISTIC APPROACH ............................................ 416
B. PRESERVATION OF CONSTITUTIONALLY ESTABLISHED POWERS ............ 417
V. CONCLUSION ......................................................................................... 419

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