On May 22, 2013 the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions approved President Barack Obama’s five nominees for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
The vote took place after a D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this past January that Obama’s recess appointments of Richard Griffin and Sharon Block were unconstitutional. This month another court also found the NLRB appointments to be invalid.
Though the committee voted to advance the five nominees, partisan objections to the re-nomination of Griffin and Block signal likely opposition during the confirmation vote in the full U.S. Senate. Both Griffin and Block only received one out of ten Republican votes each, from Lisa Murkowski (AK). Democrat Mark Gaston Pearce received six out of ten Republican votes and the two Republican nominees, Philip Miscimarra and Harry Johnson, were unanimously approved.
Senior U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that he will not approve the NLRB nominee package unless both Griffin and Block are replaced. He explained:
At a minimum, the president needs to send two new Democrat nominees to replace the two who were unconstitutionally appointed.
However, chairman of the committee, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) was in full support of all the nominees. He stated:
I hope that as we move to the floor we can put politics aside and do our duty to consider all of these nominees fairly on their own merits. This is an exceptionally well-qualified package of nominees, and they all deserve to be swiftly confirmed.
Since the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, Republicans say that the NLRB lacks quorum and, therefore, the Board cannot take any official action. Senior Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) has noted that the Board has continued to investigate cases and made decisions—decisions that are frequently appealed—causing “severe confusion about the state of the law.”
The Senate will proceed with determining the fate of the NLRB nominees after Memorial Day weekend.