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Policy: Labor

Senate approves Kent Hirozawa to join NLRB

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Kent Hirozawa, formerly the top attorney for National Labor Relations Board chairman Mark Gaston Pearce, was approved by the Senate Tuesday to join his ex-boss on the board. The Senate voted 54-44 on his nomination largely along party lines. At press time, the Senate is preparing to vote on four other NLRB nominees.

Hirozawa was one of two picks made by the White House to replace the dropped re-nominations of current board members Richard Griffin and Sharon Block. The two were dropped by President Obama as part of a July 16 deal with Republicans to avert a showdown over the Senate filibuster rule. The other replacement was AFL-CIO attorney Nancy Jean Schiffer.

The other three NLRB nominees are Pearce, and GOP picks Harry Johnson and Philip Miscimarra. The minority party gets to pick two of the five board members.

If all five are approved by the Senate, the NLRB will have a 3-2 Democratic majority, ending months of inaction caused by the board’s lack of a valid quorum. A three vote majority rules in NLRB cases.

Republicans objected to Block and Griffin’s nominations because Obama originally recess appointed them. Three courts have since ruled such nominations unconstitutional. Republicans argued the nominations were tainted as result. The Supreme Court is set to rule on the nominations later this year.

Obama’s replacement picks of Hirozawa and Schiffer were made in consultation with the AFL-CIO, which has pushed Democrats hard to get a working pro-labor quorum on the NLRB. The board has been essentially frozen since Block and Griffin’s recess appointments were found unconstitutional.

The filibuster deal was major win for Democrats and their Big Labor allies, who will now get the fully functioning NLRB they wanted all along. Reportedly, Griffin will be appointed NLRB general counsel, another powerful board position.

UPDATE: Schiffer was approved by the Senate, also by a 54-44 vote.

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