By Ramsey Cox
After a contentious fight over some of President Obama’s nominees, the Senate confirmed five members to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
On Tuesday, the Senate voted to clear all five nominees — Harry Johnson III, Philip Miscimarra, Nancy Schiffer, Kent Hirozawa and Mark Pearce.
Republicans agreed to hold up-or-down votes on the NLRB nominees as part of a deal to avoid Senate rule changes limiting the minority's right to filibuster executive branch nominations. Two of the NLRB nominees confirmed were GOP picks — Johnson and Miscimarra — and Schiffer, Hirozawa and Pearce were Obama's nominees.
“Because of the bipartisan deal that was reached on the president’s nominees, it looks like we finally have a path forward to fully confirm the National Labor Relations Board,” Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said ahead of the votes. “It will be the first time in over a decade that this has happened. … It is long past time to put the board back in business and tone down the rhetoric.”
Democrats wanted to ensure vacancies on the board were filled before the August recess because on Aug. 27, Pearce’s term as NLRB chairman was set to end, meaning the board wouldn’t have had a quorum to rule on decisions.
On Tuesday, Hirozawa and Schiffer were confirmed on 54-44 votes, Pearce was reconfirmed on a 59-38 vote, Johnson and Miscimarra were confirmed on voice-vote.
The NLRB settles labor disputes within the United States for businesses and protects workers’ rights.
“This board is an important safeguard for workers in America — regardless of whether the employees are union or non-union,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said. “Without the work of the NLRB, employees who have been cheated and treated unfairly would have no entity to address the wrongs.”
Schiffer was a former associate general counsel to the AFL-CIO, and Hirozawa served as chief counsel to Pearce before being nominated.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said he wouldn’t vote to confirm Hirozawa or Schiffe because he was afraid the nominees would be biased in favor of unions.
“Fairness and impartiality is what I look for in an NLRB nominee,” Alexander said Tuesday. “Two of those nominees do not meet that standard.”
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee voted 13-9 to advance the nominations of Schiffe and Hirozawa last week — the committee cleared the other three in May.