Amid the health care and debt debates on Dec. 24, the Senate conducted a bit of low-profile but welcome business, sending back to the White House a number of controversial nominees made by President Obama.
Included in the list of too-hot-to-touch nominees is Craig Becker, counsel for the Service Employees International Union nominated to serve on the National Labor Relations Board. Becker has proposed a radical shifting of employee-employer relations to force unionization of workplaces. The National Association of Manufacturers formally opposed his nomination.
Despite Becker’s outside-the-mainstream views, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee confirmed his nomination without even holding a hearing to hear Becker’s testimony. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) subsequently put a hold on Becker’s nomination.
Here’s the Senate’s rejection of the nominee made via a procedural move as reported on page S14139 of The Congressional Record:
ORDER FOR NOMINATIONS RECEIVED
Mr. CARDIN. As in executive session, I ask unanimous consent that all the nominations received by the Senate during the 111th Congress, first session, remain in status quo, notwithstanding the December 24, 2009, adjournment of the Senate, and that the provisions of rule XXXI, paragraph 6, of the Standing Rules of the Senate, with the following
exceptions: PN1119, COL David Teeples; Calendar No. 32, Dawn Johnsen; Calendar No. 205, Mary Smith; Calendar No. 312, Christopher Schroeder; Calendar No. 488, Edward Chen; Nos. 491 and 492, Craig Becker, and Calendar No. 579, Louis Butler.
The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. PRYOR). Without objection, it is so ordered.
The Washington Post briefly reported the Senate’s action at its Federal Eye blog. Edward Hopson at the Wyatt Employment Law Report also notes Becker’s problems and reports that the other two nominees to the NLRB — former Republican Senate staffer Brian Hayes, and Buffalo, N.Y., labor lawyer Mark Pearce — were not voted on by the Senate.
The President can send Becker’s nomination back up to the Senate in 2010, but might we see the first occasion for an Obama recess appointment? In the Bush Administration, Senate rejection prompted recess appointments (see CRS report), but the Obama Administration has yet to take that step in light of the Democratic majority in the Senate.
Whatever the next steps, the Senate’s action is a clear statement from the Democratic majority that the nomination of a top union lawyer with a history of seeking to marginalize employers was politically untenable.
UPDATE 4:40 p.m. The Senate’s action occurred under Rule XXXI, Paragraph 6, of the Standing Rules of the Senate. Also, this Point of Law post covers the Senate’s decision to return the nomination of two controversial judicial nominees, Louis Butler and Edward Chen.
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