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Rights rulings

"Rights rulings" Continued...

Court order

A Virginia court ordered seven major Anglican congregations to hand their property to Episcopal church hierarchs. The seven congregations had broken away from the mainline Episcopal church over its departure from Christian orthodoxy. If the ruling stands, 2,000 congregants in historic Falls Church in northern Virginia, for example, will have to turn their church property over to an Episcopal congregation of fewer than 100 members. The congregations haven't indicated whether they will appeal the decision.

Recess games

Conservatives are calling on Congress to defund two agencies after President Obama on Jan. 4 circumvented the U.S. Senate and unilaterally appointed four controversial nominees. Obama, continuing his strategy to move ahead without Congress, named three people to the National Labor Relations Board and installed Richard Cordray to lead the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Senators had held up voting on Cordray's nomination over concerns about the undefined powers of this new regulatory office. Obama bypassed the Senate's constitutional advise-and-consent role, arguing that Congress was in recess. But Congress, holding brief pro-forma sessions, has not gone into a formal recess of sufficient length since the holidays. Under a long-held precedent that Obama's lawyers defended in 2010, a congressional recess has to be longer than three days before the presidential appointment power can work.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said Obama's move "sets a terrible precedent that could allow any future president to completely cut the Senate out of the confirmation process." Going into brief sessions to prevent a president from sidestepping the confirmation process is a tactic that Democrats employed while George W. Bush occupied the White House. "We don't let him have recess appointments," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in 2008, "because they are mischievous."

Conservatives pointed to the appointments as another example of Obama's disregard of constitutional checks and balances.

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