Graham to block Commerce nominee over Boeing complaint

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said Monday that he would place a hold on President Obama's nominee to be the next commerce secretary unless the White House disavows a legal complaint filed against airplane manufacturer Boeing for opening a new plant in the senator's home state South Carolina. 

Graham said Monday that businessman John Bryson, who Obama tapped to replace outgoing Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, should not be approved unless the White House comes out against the National Labor Relations Board's (NLRB) action. Outgoing Commerce Secretary Gary Locke has been nominated to be ambassador to China. 

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Bryson, 67, is a member of the board of directors of Boeing. The NLRB has alleged the company retaliated against strikes by unions in Washington state by planning to open a plant that would build 787 airplanes in South Carolina instead. Boeing has currently been building 787-model airplanes at its unionized plant near Seattle, but South Carolina is a “right to work” state, where employees are not obliged to join a union.

Graham said Monday that he would use Senate procedures to hold the nomination unless the NLRB, which Obama makes appointments to, backs down. 

“I’m not going to let this Secretary of Commerce nomination go forward until the Obama administration speaks out on behalf of Boeing,” Graham said in an interview the CBS station in Spartanburg, S.C., WSPA TV-7.

“Boeing did nothing wrong," he continued. "We earned the right to make their planes, build their planes in South Carolina, and nobody is going to take that away from our state.”

Republicans have latched onto the Boeing issue, arguing the NLRB's action showed the Obama administration was too beholden to labor unions.

Graham has been criticized by conservative activists for working with the administration on other issues, most notably on a scuttled cap-and-trade energy bill reviled by most Republicans.

The White House has thus far declined to comment on the NLRB case, arguing that the panel is an "independent agency."