Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson (D) on Monday announced he would oppose Craig Becker's nomination to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) -- a move that could ultimately scuttle Becker's confirmation indefinitely.
Senate Democratic leaders needed the help of their entire 59-vote caucus, plus one Republican defector, to invoke cloture this Tuesday on Becker's nomination, which has awaited a full Senate vote since the summer of 2009. But Nelson's decision to oppose the White House's top candidate for the job seriously threatens those plans, as it now appears Democrats will not have the votes they need to proceed as intended this week.
“This is of great concern, considering that the Board’s main responsibility is to resolve labor disputes with an even and impartial hand," Nelson added. "In addition, the nominee’s statements fly in the face of Nebraska’s Right to Work laws, which have been credited in part with our excellent business climate that has attracted employers and many good jobs to Nebraska. Considering these matters, I will oppose the upcoming cloture motion and the nomination.”
Becker's nomination has drawn its fair share of political foes -- especially from the right, as many Republicans fear he is too pro-labor to work for an agency that handles employer, employee and labor disputes.
He is an adamant supporter of card-check legislation -- a proposal that allows unions to form more easily, supported by the White House -- and has done considerable work for the AFL-CIO and the Service Employees International Union. Consequently, a handful of business groups have signaled staunch opposition to his nomination, and a few Republican senators -- including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) -- have threatened filibusters.
Senate Democrats still believed they had the numbers to confirm Becker, despite GOP dissatisfaction. But the election of Republican Scott Brown in Massachusetts eroded the party's 60-vote supermajority -- and with it, Democrats' chances of confirming Becker mostly unopposed.
Still, Nelson's decision to oppose the White House's NLRB nominee further imperils Becker's chances. It is unclear how Senate Democratic leaders plan to proceed.
Nevertheless, the move could also carry significant implications for the NLRB itself, currently embroiled in a Supreme Court crisis that could render it temporarily unable to adjudicate labor disputes.
Only two members sit on the all-important panel -- Chairwoman Wilma Liebman, a Democratic appointee, and Peter Schaumber, a Republican appointee. The lack of a quorum has ultimately prompted the nation's high bench to question whether it should continue operating without additional members.
It also prompted Liebman to issue lawmakers a rare appeal last week to confirm Becker and two other nominees, who have been held up since last summer.
"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."