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The Supreme Court’s decision against recess appointments highlights the president’s risky strategy.

By Zachary A. Goldfarb
June 26 at 8:41 PM

The Supreme Court decision invalidating President Obama’s use of recess appointments laid bare the legal and political risks the president faces as he makes the aggressive use of executive power a core tenet of his second term.

With Congress refusing to embrace his agenda, Obama has turned to his presidential powers to take unilateral action on several controversial issues. He has postponed requirements of the Affordable Care Act. He has authorized tough new rules limiting power plant emissions. And he is seeking to impose new regulations to require companies to pay their employees more in overtime.

But as the Supreme Court case underscored Thursday, Obama’s high-profile assertions of executive power — part of a so-called “year of action” — are often the start of the story, not the end. Beyond Thursday’s ruling, Obama faces a new challenge in the form of a lawsuit against his executive actions that House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) plans to file, as well as lingering ­cases in the courts that could put other initiatives at risk.

“The president is saying that he’s tired of gridlock. So he’s going to solve it on his terms. That’s not how the system works,” said George Washington University professor Jonathan Turley, an Obama supporter. “There’s a reason why things are not getting done in Congress. The reason Congress is divided is the voters are divided.”

Experts said as Obama asserts new powers, he risks legal backlash. In January 2012, Obama appointed senior officials to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the National Labor Relations Board, taking advantage of a period when the Senate was not actively in session. Legal experts regarded the move as risky, given that historically recess appointments have been made when the Senate is formally out of session for an extended period.

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