POLITICS: PennAve

Obama taps two new appointees to NLRB

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President Obama has settled on two new appointments to the National Labor Relations Board after consulting with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

Obama tapped Nancy Schiffer and Kent Hirozawa for the NLRB. Schiffer is the associate general counsel at the AFL-CIO and Hirozawa is the chief counsel to NLRB Chairman Gaston Pearce.

The two lawyers were selected to replace the previous nominees of Richard Griffin and Sharon Block, the two board members whose recess appointments were ruled unconstitutional by a federal court earlier this year.

Republicans have agreed not to block the replacements as part of a deal to keep Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, from invoking the so-called nuclear option, a change to Senate rules that would allow nominees to be approved with a simple majority rather than the 60 votes currently needed.

Democrats won another concession in the deal  an agreement that the NLRB would function through the end of 2014, which includes Obama's ability to appoint another board member next year for a slot.

But Republicans considered Obama's agreement to abandon his original recess appoints a major victory. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled in January that Block's and Griffin's appointments were unconstitutional, and Republicans have challenged decisions by the labor board during the two members' tenure, which began in January 2012. At the time of the recess appointments, the Senate was holding pro forma sessions to prevent the president from acting, a longtime practice to avoid such appointments while Congress is out of town for an extended period. The Obama administration argued that the Senate was actually in recess at the time.

The Supreme Court will consider the constitutionality of the appointments later this year.

Schiffer and Hirozawa will appear before the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee for a hearing next week and are expected to be approved before Congress breaks for the August recess.

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