Senate advances Obama’s NLRB counsel nominee

Eight Republicans joined Democrats in advancing President Obama’s nomination of Richard Griffin to serve as general counsel to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

On Tuesday, the Senate voted 62-37 on a motion to end debate on Griffin’s nominations — 60 votes were needed to overcome a Republican filibuster.

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Some Republicans criticized Griffin for being a labor advocate rather than an “umpire” while briefly serving on the NLRB, which settles major disputes between employers and employees.

“I’m concerned about the direction of the NLRB and its role as an advocate more than an umpire,” Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said. “The board has become far to politicized.”

Despite Alexander’s opposition to Griffin, he voted for cloture because he said Obama’s nominees deserve an up-or-down vote — which will happen eight hours after the cloture vote unless time is yielded back. Alexander was joined by GOP Sens. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), Susan Collins (Maine), Roy Blunt (Mo.), Bob Corker (Tenn.), Jeff Flake (Ariz.), John McCain (Ariz.) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) in voting for cloture.

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said Griffin deserved a “strong bipartisan vote” because he is more than qualified to serve as NLRB general counsel.

“I have no doubt that he’ll do an outstanding job,” Harkin said. “Why do my Republican colleagues have so much trouble voting for someone who was a lawyer for labor unions?”

Griffin’s nomination is slightly controversial because earlier this year the Federal Appeals Court in Washington, D.C., found that Obama unconstitutionally appointed Griffin when Congress wasn’t officially recessed in 2012. The Supreme Court is expected to consider that decision. 

In July, Senate Republicans allowed votes on five other NLRB members in order to keep the board operational. But that agreement came only after Obama withdrew the nomination of Griffin and replaced him with someone else.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said GOP obstruction has created a “backlog.” He said the Senate would continue to work throughout the week to confirm some “critical” executive branch nominees.

“It is no secret that Republicans have systematically slow-walked or blocked scores of President Obama’s judicial and executive branch nominees,” Reid said Monday. “It is time to move forward — without delay — and fill these crucial posts.”

Reid had to reschedule the vote, which was originally supposed to occur Monday evening, because some senators hadn’t returned in time from their constituent workweek. He also filed cloture motions on six other Obama nominees, which he hopes to vote on later this week.