Labor board chief wants vote on NLRB nominees

The National Labor Relations Board's chief issued a rare appeal to lawmakers Friday to confirm three pending nominees.

The White House's candidates -- Craig Becker, Mark Pearce and Brian Hayes -- have been held up for months now, mostly because Senate Republicans fear Becker, in particular, is too friendly to unions.

A Senate procedural vote on Becker's nomination is expected Monday evening. It does not appear that Becker has the 60 votes necessary to proceed given that Democrats now hold only 59 seats in the Senate.

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Chairwoman Wilma Liebman described the delay in confirming the three nominees as "disappointing," noting the Senate's inaction has meant the nation's top panel overseeing unions and workers' rights has only two members -- herself and Peter Schaumber, one of President George W. Bush's nominees.

Liebman, who was nominated by President Bill Clinton and then re-nominated for another term by Bush, said those vacancies have imperiled the agency's mission, as it has meant the two-member NLRB often issues split decisions that leave many cases unresolved.

The chairwoman added it has also prompted a Supreme Court inquiry that could ultimately halt the NLRB's work until it is able to seat more than two members.

"We have done our best to carry out the Board’s important work, issuing more than 500 decisions in cases involving thousands of workers across the country," Liebman said in a statement. "But our authority to do so has been challenged and now the Supreme Court will decide whether we can continue to function."

"At the same time, the Board has been unable to move forward on the most significant cases before it," she added. "I look forward to a time in the near future when the Board is back at full capacity resolving issues vital to American workers and their employers.”

Republicans and the business lobby have portrayed the vote on Becker in particular as a litmus test for the Democrats' proposed "card check" legislation, which would make it easier to form unions. Becker is a long-time supporter of the proposal, and he previously served as a top lawyer for the AFL-CIO and the SEIU, two top card-check endorsers.

Democrats could have still thwarted Becker's GOP opponents when they had a supermajority last year. But the party officially lost its 60th vote after Republican Sen. Scott Brown (Mass.) was sworn in on Thursday, a move that could ultimately jeopardize Becker's confirmation.