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Policy: Labor

Former NLRB chair: Appointments have been a battleground for decades

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Former National Labor Relations Board Chairwoman Wilma Liebman had an op-ed in Politico yesterday urging the full Senate to approve the five NLRB nominees the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is set to vote on tomorrow. She argues the situation at the NLRB — which currently lacks a valid quorum — is “exceptional.”

But elsewhere in her column, she also notes the turmoil is far from unique. In fact, it is the norm. Liebman herself served a 27-month stretch in which she was one of only two members on the board, which requires a quorum of at least three to act.

Appointments to the NLRB have been a political battleground for decades, with the board often making do with recess appointments and chronic vacant seats. During my nearly 14 years on the board, I served as the sole member (for six weeks) and on two-, three-, four- and five-member boards. The 27 months with only two board members resulted because Senate Democrats took no action during President George W. Bush’s last year of office on his nominations to fill three vacancies on the board created in late December 2007, and decided not to recess at all that year to preclude the president from making any recess appointments.

In other words, while the Democrats blame Republicans for obstructionalism, the GOP is only doing what the Democrats did when the situation was reversed just a few years ago. It was a point conceded at committee hearing last week by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. ”I get that. You are in minority and you are leveraging the power you have,” he said.

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Sean Higgins

Senior Writer
The Washington Examiner