The New York Times claims today that the National Labor Relations Board decisions are behind held up by a Senate hold on the controversial nomination of SEIU attorney Craig Becker. (“Labor Panel Is Stalled by Dispute on Nominee.”) But the absence of a full NLRB quorum existed long before President Obama nominated Becker to the post or Sen. John McCain put a hold on his nomination.
In January 2008 President Bush sought to fill the vacancies that existed at the Board. Senate Democrats delayed action on the nominations and then prevented their recess appointments. (Remember the series of short pro forma sessions held by the Senate? ) As a result, the NLRB has been operating with only two board members, raising legal questions about the decisions they were able to reach* and contributing to a backlog on other deliberations.
Sen. McCain opposed Craig Becker’s nomination in the Senate HELP Committees — which did not hold a hearing to actually hear from the candidate — and subsequently put a procedural hold to block his confirmation. However, Sen. McCain’s hold does not apply to the full package of NLRB nominees, which includes Democrat Mark Pearce and Republican Brian Hayes, but only on Craig Becker. Nor is Sen. McCain the reason that the Board has been operating with only two members.
Sen. McCain’s hold and the Senate’s decision to return the Becker nomination to the White House at the end of 2009 are the result of Becker’s far out views on management-labor relations. That’s what is really at issue here, not the NLRB quorum or backlog.
* At issue in New Process Steel v. NLRB is whether the NLRB can delegate authority to a two-member quorum. (See NLRB news release.) Oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court are scheduled for March 23.