In 2012, Obama made three “recess appointments” to the National Labor Relations Board while the Senate was technically still in session. Normally, such nominees would need to be confirmed by the Senate. When the Senate is truly in recess, the president is allowed to make temporary appointments to fill positions that would require Senate confirmation.
The Obama administration argued that Republican senators were using a “gimmick called “pro forma sessions” – quick sessions lasting just a few moments in which no Senate business is conducted – to prevent the president from making recess appointments.
In June 2014, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the president had overstepped his bounds, and that only the Senate can determine when it is in session. In a second, landmark decision in the case, the justices ruled 5-4 that the president had broad power to make recess appointments. But it was not as broad as Obama had wanted.