Earlier this week, Republicans proved the lesson we all learned in school, “the majority rules,” doesn’t apply to the U.S. Senate. With every single Republican vote and two from defecting Democrats (see below), Republicans sustained a filibuster against Craig Becker’s nomination to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
After the vote, President Obama cited the filibuster against Becker and Republican holds on more than 60 of his nominees and said he would consider using recess appointment strategy to break the stranglehold the Republican minority has put on the nominees.
When Congress is in recess, as it will be next week, a president may appoint someone to a post without congressional action. The recess appointment lasts through the current session of Congress.
If Obama follows through and appoints Becker or other blocked nominees, get ready for another dose of Republican hypocrisy as they undoubtedly will join with their corporate allies to whine about how the unfairness of recess appointments.
Of course they would be suffering from a convenient group memory loss. President George W. Bush not only made 171 recess appointments—Obama has not made any—Bush’s very first recess appointment was to the NLRB. On Aug. 31, 2001, he appointed Peter J. Hurtgen to be chairman of the NLRB.
That was just the start of his attempt to pack the board. He named seven other nominees to the NLRB via recess appointments. No one seems to recall any Republican hue and cry over those recess appointments.
The major difference is Bush’s picks were demonstrably pro-corporate and Chamber of Commerce approved. Becker scares Republicans and their big business buddies because of his background as labor lawyer and advocate for workers.
But as he told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension committee during his confirmation hearing:
I fully understand that, if confirmed, I will occupy a position far different from the positions I have occupied as a scholar, teacher, and advocate…if confirmed I will have a duty to implement the intent of Congress as expressed in the law, to consider impartially all views appropriately expressed to the Board.
Following the vote, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said:
We support President Obama’s expressed willingness to make recess appointments of critical posts in the federal government if that’s what it takes to get around minority delay and obstruction. [The] Republican-led filibuster has put political interests over the needs of America’s working families. For more than two years, the NLRB has had only two of its five members. Without a fully staffed NLRB, working families face a major disadvantage in winning justice in the workplace
Those two defecting Democrats who supported the filibuster were Ben Nelson (Neb.) and Blanche Lincoln (Ark.). Give them a call and tell them how disappointed you are that they turned their backs back on working families. Nelson’s office phone is 202-224-4842 and Lincoln’s is 202-224-6551.