By Kevin Bogardus - 03/26/10 12:07 AM EDT
Business associations and unions are preparing for a possible recess appointment by the White House of a controversial nominee to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
Craig Becker, an associate general counsel to both the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and AFL-CIO, was nominated by President Barack Obama to the NLRB but failed this February to secure 60 votes in the Senate for confirmation. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others lobbied heavily against Becker, believing he would tilt the labor board too much in favor of unions.
The NLRB, which judges labor law violations and oversees union elections, only has two members in position now.
The White House passed on making a recess appointment during the Presidents Day congressional recess. But with the Easter break fast approaching, both sides are reiterating their requests for what to do next on Becker.
The Obama administration has hinted at a recess appointment for Becker in the past. Earlier this month, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said the labor movement would be “very pleased” with how the flare-up is resolved, according to press reports.
“Working families strongly support a recess appointment. The NLRB protects workers’ rights and has been operating with only two members for over a year due to Republican obstruction. It’s time to have a fully functioning board,” said Eddie Vale, a spokesman for the AFL-CIO.
A White House spokesman declined to comment Thursday when asked about a possible recess appointment for Becker.
Republican opposition to Becker is unified in the Senate. On Thursday, all 41 Republican senators, led by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), sent a letter to Obama urging him not to make the recess appointment.
“Taking this action would install a rejected nominee for an appointed term to the NLRB, setting an unfortunate precedent for all future nominations and future administrations,” the letter says.
Vale said it was “laughable” that GOP senators are complaining about the recess-appointment process, especially for an “eminently qualified” nominee.
“They should probably go back and check their files to see if they ever sent a similar letter to George Bush when he used recess appointments for seven NLRB nominees,” Vale said.
Bush often used recess appointments for the labor board because Senate Democrats opposed his nominees based on their beliefs that they favored employers, not employees. Like Republicans now, Democrats complained then about the recess-appointment process.
Republicans are joined by business associations in opposition to Becker. About 20 trade groups, including the Chamber, the National Association of Manufacturers and the National Federation of Independent Business, wrote a letter to Obama Tuesday arguing against a recess appointment for the nominee.
Reviewing his academic writings, they argue if Becker were seated on the labor board, he would be able to “institute far-reaching changes in the law that would not merely interpret existing law, but would bypass the role of Congress in setting national labor policy.”
In both the GOP’s and business groups’ letters, they take no issue with Obama’s two other labor board nominees, Mark Pearce and Brian Hayes, who have yet to be confirmed.
Katie Packer, executive director of the Workforce Fairness Institute, agrees, saying that Becker is the only nominee who should not make it onto the board.
“This recess appointment will be one of the most hostile moves that the administration can make toward small business,” Packer said.