WASHINGTON -- Senate Republicans are joining a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of some of President Barack Obama's recess appointments in January, when Congress may not have technically been in recess, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced Tuesday.
"We inside the Republican Conference had a number of discussions about the appropriate response to this unconstitutional action on the part of the president. We concluded the best course of action was for us to join an appropriate lawsuit," McConnell told reporters. "I have asked -- and he has accepted -- that Miguel Estrada, a name that might be familiar to some of you, represent Senate Republicans in an amicus brief related to the president's unconstitutional action."
Estrada was assistant to the solicitor general from 1992 until 1997. He is currently a partner in the Washington, D.C., office of the law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. Estrada was also at the center of a controversy in 2001, when President George W. Bush nominated him to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Senate Democrats filibustered his nomination on the grounds that he was "far beyond the mainstream" and had no judicial experience.
The lawsuit, Noel Canning v. NLRB, is challenging Obama for making three recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board at a time when the Senate was not technically in recess. The White House maintains that the president was fully within his right to make the appointments because Republicans were relying on "a gimmick" to prevent the Senate from going into recess.
"We are confident that the President’s authority to make recess appointments will be upheld by the courts," White House spokesman Eric Schultz told HuffPost via email.
Obama made another controversial recess appointment at the time -- he installed Richard Cordray as the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which Republicans fought hard to block -- but a McConnell spokesman clarified Tuesday that this lawsuit is only focused on the NLRB appointments.
"This is a specific case. The litigant was affected by an NLRB ruling, not a CFPB ruling," said McConnell spokesman Don Stewart.
According to materials provided by McConnell's office, the NLRB lawsuit was brought by a family-owned business in Washington state that bottles and distributes soft drinks. The company is challenging NLRB’s "determination that it must enter into a collective bargaining agreement with a labor union," according to McConnell's description of the case.
"We will demonstrate to the Court how the President’s unconstitutional actions fundamentally endanger the Congress’s role in providing a check on the excesses of the executive branch," McConnell said in an accompanying statement.
An NLRB spokeswoman declined to comment.
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) told reporters he is "glad" that Senate Republicans are getting involved in the case.
"No matter how you feel about the appointments, in my view, every senator should understand that the Senate should decide when the Senate is in session, not the president," Blunt said. "If the president can do what he did with those recess appointments, I believe he could be making appointments right now by just deciding, 'They're not there. It's lunchtime. Let's make some appointments and they'll meet the constitutional standard.'"
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he couldn't care less about the move by his GOP colleagues.
"How do I feel about that?" Reid asked, pausing for several seconds before continuing. "How do I describe 'I don't care'? Because I don't."