Senate Republicans are looking to stop work at the National Labor Relations Board and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, piggybacking on a federal appeals court ruling that invalidated some of President Barack Obama's controversial recess appointments.
A series of Republican bills filed on Capitol Hill the week ending February 1, call for a freeze on any NLRB decisions, regulations or rulings until there is a final resolution to any pending lawsuits that challenge the constitutionality of Obama's appointments to that board.
The most notable of those cases, in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that three recess appointments to the NLRB in January 2012 were unconstitutional, is pending an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The NLRB has said the ruling applies only in one case and that it will continue to issue decisions. But Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), the author of one of the bills, says any rulings that were made by an "unconstitutionally appointed and invalid quorum" should not be able to move forward "and create even more uncertainty across this country."
"At this moment, it is practically impossible for anyone to know which NLRB decisions are valid and which are not," Barrasso said Wednesday when introducing his bill on the Senate floor. "It is my opinion that none of them should be valid. But it is time to stop this regulatory train wreck from getting any worse."
Another bill extends that freeze to the CFPB, since the recess appointment of bureau director Richard Cordray was made on the same day and under the same assertion of executive power as the NLRB appointments. His appointment is also being challenged in federal court in Washington.
The bill, authored by Senator Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) and with eight Republican co-sponsors, also blocks CFPB's next transfer of funds from the Federal Reserve to carry out any actions that require the approval of a director.
"These agencies have been operating under a ruse for more than a year," Johanns said in a written statement. "This legislation forces them to stop functioning as if they legitimately hold office and recognize the reality that the President overstepped his constitutional authority."
Another bill similarly aims to cut off salaries for the NLRB members whose appointments were invalidated. "The President needs to reappoint, and until the President does reappoint, Congress has a responsibility to block this unconstitutional act by terminating the salaries of those who were illegally appointed and by preventing them from conducting any official business until the Senate acts to approve their appointments," Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said on the Senate floor.
Republicans have long opposed the CFPB, insisting that the agency be turned into a five-member commission and made subject to the appropriations process rather than be independently funded by the Federal Reserve. Republicans already have filed bills that would make those changes.
Obama's recess appointment came after Republicans in Congress steadfastly refused to consider Cordray's nomination to head the new agency unless those changes were made.