Policy: Labor

Senate committee advances NLRB nominees over GOP objections

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Senate Health, Education Labor and Pensions Committee members approved the nominations of the White House’s five picks to run the National Labor Relations Board. Several Republicans objected to two of the nominees, though, indicating they will face trouble in the full Senate. That means the NLRB — which lacks a valid quorum — may remain in limbo a while longer.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

On Wednesday, all 12 of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee’s Democrats supported Democratic nominees Sharon Block and Richard Griffin, the two board members Mr. Obama installed in January 2012, bypassing Senate confirmation.

The two appointments have been ruled unconstitutional by the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. Republicans say Ms. Block and Mr. Griffin should not have continued to sit on the board after the court’s ruling several months ago, and on Wednesday Republicans showed their strong resistance, with only one of the 10 committee members voting to advance their nominations to the full Senate. Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska was the only Republican to vote for the two.

The committee approved a third Democrat, Mark Pearce, the NLRB’s current chairman. Mr. Pearce, who had been previously confirmed and was renominated, won support from all 12 committee Democrats and six Republicans, indicating he has a good chance of winning confirmation by the full Senate.

The two Republican nominees—Harry I. Johnson III and Philip Miscimarra—received unanimous support, a sign of Democrats’ willingness to back the candidates despite ideological differences in order to keep the five-member labor board running.

“I know each of us probably don’t see eye to eye with all the nominees ideologically,” said board Chairman Sen. Tom Harkin (D., Iowa), “but it’s now past time to act before the board loses its quorum in August” when Mr. Pearce’s term expires and leaves the board unable to issue rulings and conduct most business.

Republicans say the board is already operating without a quorum because the appeals court ruled the two recess appointees are invalid. The Obama administration has asked the Supreme Court to hear the case.

Mr. Harkin said Ms. Block and Mr. Griffin should continue serving on the board until the high court resolves the issue. “Why should they lose their jobs or be forced to resign when we don’t know what the final outcome will be?” he said at the hearing.

Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the committee’s top Republican, said Mr. Obama should nominate two others in their place.

“They’ve continued to serve even though” the court says their service is constitutionally invalid, Mr. Alexander said. “These members have participated in 919 published and unpublished decisions, 215 of which have come after the court’s ruling,” he added. Many of those rulings are already being appealed, he noted, which “is creating severe confusion about the state of the law.”

For some further background on the turmoil at the NLRB see my column today and my post last week on the subject.

 

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