A federal appeals court ruled that President Barack Obama violated the Constitution by appointing three members of the National Labor Relations Board.
He bypassed the Senate to install appointees during a Congressional recess, hardly unprecedented but still unconstitutional, according to the ruling.
The decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is a win for Congressional Republicans and business groups critical of the labor board.
If it stands, the far-reaching decision could invalidate hundreds of board decisions over the past year, including some making it easier for unions to organize.
It could also limit or eliminate a President's powers to make recess appointments.
Here's how it all went down: When Obama filled the Labor Relations Board vacancies on January 4, 2012, Congress was on an extended holiday break.
GOP lawmakers gaveled in for a few minutes every three days, however, just to technically prevent Obama from making these very recess appointments.
The White House argued that the pro forma sessions - some lasting less than a minute - were a sham and went ahead and appointed the members anyway.
The court rejected that argument, but went even further, finding that under the Constitution, a recess occurs only during the breaks between formal year-long sessions.
It also held that presidents can bypass the Senate only when administration vacancies occur during a recess, not if they existed prior to the recess.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said the administration disagrees with the decision and that the labor board would continue to conduct business as usual.
"The decision is novel and unprecedented," Carney said. "It contradicts 150 years of practice by Democratic and Republican administrations."
The Justice Department added, "We disagree with the court's ruling and believe that the president's recess appointments are constitutionally sound.
Again, this practice dates back 150 years. Under the court's decision, 285 recess appointments made by presidents between 1867 and 2004 would be invalid.
The court acknowledged that the ruling conflicts with what some other federal appeals courts have held, all but guaranteeing an appeal to the Supreme Court.