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Policy: Labor

Senate approves National Labor Relations Board nominees

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All five of President Obama’s nominees to the National Labor Relations Board, which oversees labor/management relations, were approved by the Senate Tuesday, ending months of delays caused by earlier Republican objections over the picks.

Kent Hirozawa and Nancy Jean Schiffer were both approved by 54-44 votes. Mark Gaston Pearce, the current board chairman, was approved by a vote of 59-38. GOP picks Harry Johnson and Philip Miscimarra were both approved by voice vote. (The minority party gets to pick two of the five board members.)

The votes gave the NLRB a 3-2 Democratic majority. A three vote majority rules in NLRB cases.

Hirozawa and Schiffer were replacement picks made by President Obama after he dropped the re-nominations of board members Richard Griffin and Sharon Block. They were given up as part of a July 16 deal with Republicans to avert a showdown over the Senate filibuster rule.

Schiffer was a top AFL-CIO attorney. Hirozawa had been the top attorney on Pearce’s staff.

Republicans objected to Block and Griffin’s nominations because Obama had originally recess appointed them in January 2012. 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.

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