Yesterday, President Obama announced his intention to recess appoint 15 qualified nominees who have faced an “unprecedented level” of GOP obstruction to fill “critical” administration positions. From a statement by White House Communications Director Jen Psaki:
Many of these fifteen individuals have enjoyed broad bipartisan support, but have found their confirmation votes delayed for reasons that have nothing to do with their qualifications. … Because of political posturing, these fifteen appointees have waited an average of 214 days for Senate confirmation. […]
To put this in perspective, at this time in 2002, President Bush had only 5 nominees pending on the floor. By contrast, President Obama has 77 nominees currently pending on the floor, 58 of whom have been waiting for over two weeks and 44 of those have been waiting more than a month.
One of the people receiving a recess appointment is Craig Becker to serve on the National Labor Relations Board, which protects workers from unfair labor practices. As Psaki explained, although the “five member board has been trying to operate with only two members,” Becker has “been waiting for 261 days or over 8 months” to be confirmed.
Becker, who has spent much of his distinguished career as a lawyer for the AFL-CIO and SEIU, has been one of the GOP’s top targets. Republicans have been using his nomination as a proxy battle for the Employee Free Choice Act. As The Wonk Room’s Pat Garofalo has explained, they seem to believe that “Becker will somehow institute EFCA all by himself, which is, of course, nonsense.”
Today on CBS’s Face the Nation, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) tried to make the GOP obstruction sound reasonable, claiming that all they wanted was “some debate and a vote”:
DEMINT: Craig Becker, who was in the group that he appointed by executive fiat yesterday, is someone who has worked for unions his entire career. He put him on a board that is supposed to be unbiased arbitrators between businesses and unions. Democrats opposed this nomination. So, there’s bipartisan opposition. All we had asked for is some debate and a vote on this nominee. He decided to circumvent Congress again — which has become his style on so many issues — and just appoint him while we were out of town.
Despite what DeMint is saying, the problem is that Republicans were preventing Becker from receiving an up-or-down vote. Becker, in fact, has never received such a vote, thanks to a GOP filibuster (which was joined by Democratic Sens. Ben Nelson and Blanche Lincoln). In February, the 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. Even if all of the non-voting members had voted no, Becker still would have received the approval of a majority of the Senate.
There’s a similar story for many of other Obama’s nominees, including Erroll Southers, the man Obama chose to lead the Transportation Security Administration. DeMint led the opposition to Southers — in an attempt “to prevent TSA workers from joining a labor union” — who eventually chose to withdraw from consideration because of the delays.
SCHIEFFER: One of the things the President said when you all said that we’re going to continue to oppose this, he said “bring it on.” He was ready for the fight. And I suppose one of the ways he is doing that is he announced last night that he is going to, what they call “recess appoint,” 15 nominees for government jobs that have been appointments that are being held up in the Senate — he’s going to appoint them during this recess. And for people who don’t quite understand what that means, what it means is they can go to work, fill out those positions, and continue to work in those positions until the next Congress is seated next year. What’s your response to that?
DEMINT: Bob, the President is mocking Americans who continue to be against this bill. He said “bring it on.” That’s what we intend to do. Now his recess appointments belie the fact that hundreds of his nominations have been confirmed unanimously by the Senate. But he has had mixed in with these batch of nominations some pretty radical folks.
Craig Becker, who was in the group that he appointed by executive fiat yesterday, is someone who has worked for unions his entire career. He put him on a board that is supposed to be unbiased arbitrators between businesses and unions. Democrats opposed this nomination. So, there’s bipartisan opposition. All we had asked for is some debate and a vote on this nominee. He decided to circumvent Congress again — which has become his style on so many issues — and just appoint him while we were out of town.