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Why January 3? Because the president’s recess appointment powers were

Slate is published by The Slate Group, a Graham Holdings Company. All contents © 2018 The Slate Group LLC. All rights reserved.Painting by Gilbert Stuart via National Gallery of Art

Presidents have used that ace in the hole for two centuries to appoint thousands of officials, ranging from the famous–Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan–to the obscure. The last five presidents alone have made more than 650 recess appointments.

The Court of Appeals added that, in any event, the phrase “vacancies that may happen during the recess” applies only to vacancies that come into existence during a recess. , at 507–512.Produced by Hannah Fairfield and Josh Williams

But the court then went further, picking apart the word “happen.” It concluded that vacancies “happen during the Recess” only if an office becomes vacant during that recess if it was already vacant, the vacancy didn’t “happen” during the recess. the court said, the president’s power is not just limited to making appointments during the winter recess. It’s also limited to filling vacancies that began during that same recess, even though the recess can last for just days or even hours. If t

     1. The Recess Appointments Clause empowers the President fill any existing vacancy during any recess--intra-session or inter-session--of sufficient length. Pp. 5-33.

Most of the time, the Supreme Court decides cases with a careful eye to what is known as precedent – that is, its earlier cases dealing with the same or similar topics. Precedent plays a major role in important cases argued earlier this Term involving constitutional challenges to, for example, Michigan’s at its public universities, the overall limits on how much an individual can , and . But on Monday, the Court will take on a constitutional issue for which there is no real precedent because the Justic

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