Invalidated NLRB member clears key hurdle on path to confirmation

A former member of the National Labor Relations Board whose appointment was found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court cleared a major hurdle Wednesday in her bid to return to the agency.

In a politically charged vote, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee approved Sharon Block’s nomination over the objections of all but one Republican on the panel.

The vote was 13-9, with Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa MurkowskiTrump’s Army pick faces tough confirmation fight Republican Sen. Collins considering run for Maine governor in 2018 Alaska senators push bill to allow Arctic drilling MORE (R-Alaska) breaking ranks to vote with Democrats.

Block's confirmation is all but assured after that, given Senate rule changes allowing most presidential appointments to advance with support from a simple majority.

It is unclear, however, how soon Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidWeek ahead: House to revive Yucca Mountain fight Warren builds her brand with 2020 down the road 'Tuesday Group' turncoats must use recess to regroup on ObamaCare MORE (D-Nev.) might bring the matter to the Senate floor for a vote. Some observers have suggested he is likely to wait until after the November midterms, given the political context of her nomination.

Block was among a trio of members President Obama installed on the labor board in 2012, using his recess appointment power. Senate Republicans, who opposed the nominees, disputed the appointments, contending that Obama overstepped his authority since the Senate was technically in a “pro-forma” session at the time.

Ultimately, the Supreme Court agreed, invalidating the appointments this summer in a blockbuster case known as Noel Canning v. National Labor Relations Board.

Obama promptly re-nominated Block to the board, drawing renewed criticism from Republicans who faulted her for remaining on the board after preliminary federal court rulings found her appointment unconstitutional.

Sen. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderGroups warn of rural health 'crisis' under ObamaCare repeal Trump’s Army pick faces tough confirmation fight Trump faces risky ObamaCare choice MORE (Tenn.), the HELP Committee’s top GOP member, said Wednesday that he found in Block a “troubling lack of respect for the Constitution and the separation of powers.”

During a confirmation hearing earlier this month, Block told the panel that she stayed on the panel in accordance with a system in place at the NLRB and stressed that she had taken an oath to serve.

Given the heated debate during that hearing, Committee Chairman Tom HarkinTom HarkinDistance education: Tumultuous today and yesterday Grassley challenger no stranger to defying odds Clinton ally stands between Sanders and chairmanship dream MORE (D-Iowa) spoke only briefly in favor of Block before Wednesday’s vote.

“Quite frankly, I think we’ve all said our piece on this,” he said.