The 60th Vote Comes into Play with Labor, NLRB Nominees

The Senate on Monday voted 60-32 on a partyline vote (eight Republicans not voting) to invoke cloture on the nomination of Patricia Smith, President Obama’s choice to become solicitor at the Department of Labor.  Smith drew opposition from Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY), the ranking Republican on the Senate HELP Committee, because of misstatements about her record as New York Commissioner of Labor about a wage compliance program that, he contends, sidled up too closely to the labor unions. Enzi outlines his opposition starting on Page S376 of The Congressional Record, and he has posted additional documentation on the committee’s website.

The political maneuvering is interesting. The partyline vote enabled Senate Democrats to move Smith’s nomination ahead, and was possible because of the vote of interim Sen. Paul Kirk (D-MA). His Republican replacement, Senator-elect Scott Brown will be sworn in on Feb. 11 and could have potentially stopped Smith’s confirmation by preventing the 60th vote for cloture.

We’re likely seeing a political replay with the nomination of SEIU counsel Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board. Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee has scheduled Becker’s confirmation hearing for this afternoon at 4 p.m., and the committee vote to follow Thursday morning at 10 a.m. The rush is on to get his nomination to the floor before Scott Brown is sworn in as Senator.

The National Association of Manufacturers and other major trade associations joined in a letter to HELP Committee members opposing Becker’s nomination. Excerpt:

Mr. Becker’s unorthodox views have been demonstrated through his previous written commentary of the National Labor Relations Act, the law he would be charged with interpreting and enforcing should he be confirmed. Many of his beliefs would disrupt years of established precedent and the delicate balance in current labor law. We have significant concerns with the Board’s ability to radically interpret existing labor law should Mr. Becker be confirmed.

So we expect to see the cloture vote held early next week, at the latest February 10.

For more on Becker’s nomination, see this earlier posts.



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