By David Ingram
(Reuters) - In what may be the first legal challenge to recent recess appointments by the Obama administration, a U.S. lobbying group for small businesses said on Friday it will contest the naming of three members to the National Labor Relations Board.
Alleging that the appointments violated the Constitution, the National Federation of Independent Business said it is expanding an earlier challenge it already had pending against the NLRB to encompass the appointments issue.
"NFIB takes this action today to ensure that its members are protected from unconstitutional acts that exacerbate the NLRB's devolution from a neutral arbiter between labor and employers to a pro-union government agency," said Karen Harned, executive director of NFIB's Small Business Legal Center, in a statement.
The challenge is being made in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., where the NFIB and other business groups were already suing the NLRB over a rule that would require employers to display a poster explaining workers' rights to unionize.
The NLRB said it is amending that complaint, which was first filed in September and is in the early stages of litigation.
The lobbying group said it represents 350,000 small businesses across the United States.
The general counsel's office at the NLRB said it had not seen the challenge and had no comment.
White House spokesman Eric Schultz defended the recess appointments in a statement responding to the challenge.
The president has the power under the Constitution "to make temporary recess appointments to fill vacant positions when the Senate is in recess, a power all recent Presidents have exercised," Schultz said, adding that the Senate has effectively been in recess for weeks.
The business group made no mention of Obama's recess appointment of Richard Cordray as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which he made at the same time as the NLRB appointments on January 4.
(Reporting By David Ingram. Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh, Bernard Orr)