WASHINGTON : The US Supreme Court on Monday waded into a constitutional dispute between President Barack Obama and his Republican foes over administration appointments he made last year when the Senate was out of session.

In a brief statement, the nine justices announced they would review a federal court ruling that found Obama violated the constitution when he made three recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board. Congressional Republicans, who are keen to rein in the powers of the NLRB as well as those of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), with which the lawmakers have been wrangling, had declared the ruling a victory.

The Supreme Court’s review of that decision will be one of the most closely watched rulings made by the court during its next session, which begins in October.

The court said it will be called up to decide “whether the president’s recess-appointment power may be exercised during a recess that occurs within a session of the Senate, or is instead limited to recesses that occur between enumerated sessions of the Senate.”

In other words, can the chief executive make recess appointments only during the official break between formal year-long sessions of Congress, or may he do so during the small breaks within the Senate session?

Congress does not officially consider such small breaks as recesses, and in January the US Court of Appeals in Washington agreed.

The court ruled that some NLRB decisions - notably one against bottling company Noel Canning - should be invalidated because the board members were not properly appointed.

The case stems from Obama’s announcement January 4, 2012 that he was filling the three vacancies. He also announced the appointment of Richard Cordray to head the newly created CFPB, an appointment that Senate Republicans had managed to block for more than a year.

The move infuriated critics, who accused Obama of trampling on the Constitution. They argued that Congress was not technically on recess, as Republicans had demanded that the Senate hold brief, “pro forma” sessions every few days as a way to block Obama from making the appointments.

The recess appointment case will be examined when the Supreme Court begins its next session, in October.

While last year’s move was controversial, Obama has made relatively few recess appointments - 32 so far - compared to his recent predecessors, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Republican president George W. Bush made 171 recess appointments during his eight years in office, while Democrat Bill Clinton made 139 during his eight years, the service said.