This week, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) said that he expects President Obama to recess appoint former AFL-CIO and SEIU lawyer Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) after Congress adjourns at the end of the week. Becker’s nomination — as well as those of two other NLRB nominees — have been held up by conservatives in Congress.
The administration has been hinting for a while that a recess appointment for Becker is coming, and today Senate Republicans — who are using Becker’s nomination as a proxy battle over the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) — fired off a letter to Obama making their displeasure with these developments known:
We are writing to urge you not to overturn the bipartisan vote against the nomination of Craig Becker to be a Member of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) through a recess appointment. To do so would bypass the advice and consent traditions of the Senate…Taking this action would install a rejected nominee for an appointed term to the NLRB, setting an unfortunate precedent for all future nominations and future administrations.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), one of the principal authors of the letter, added that “if this administration chooses to recess appoint Mr. Becker, it would be just another example of putting the will of one special interest group over the will of the American people.”
These are pretty strong words from the GOP, claiming that Becker is a “rejected nominee,” who was voted down due to “the will of the American people.” You’d almost think he faced an up-or-down vote sometime.
However, if you thought that an up-or-down vote was ever held on Becker’s nomination, you’d be wrong. His nomination was filibustered, like so many others, as a motion to file cloture on his nomination was defeated by a 33-52 vote (with 15 senators missing the vote), eight short of the 60 needed to proceed to debate and a final vote.
So even if all of the non-voting members had voted no, Becker still would have received the approval of a majority of the Senate. But thanks to the Republicans using procedural votes to gum things up, Becker remains in limbo. And of course, conservatives didn’t seem to take umbrage with President George W. Bush’s multitude of recess appointments to the NLRB.
The NLRB has been in the spotlight this week because a case was heard by the Supreme Court that could invalidate more than 600 rulings that the board made while only two of its five members were in place. (The technical dispute revolves around whether or not two members constitutes a quorum). During oral arguments before the court, Chief Justice John Roberts directly asked why Obama has not simply solved the NLRB’s problem with recess appointments. And with the unprecedented obstruction that the Republicans are engaging in, that’s exactly the right question to ask.
The American Prospect’s Adam Serwer adds:
Republicans have already acknowledged that their strategy is universal opposition to anything the administration wants to do, making the threat meaningless. Republicans have already killed all the hostages, and now they’re demanding a chopper and a billion dollars transferred to a Swiss bank account. What’s the point?