Sens. Enzi, Hatch Were Right About Craig Becker, Radicalized NLRB

Sens. Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) have led the opposition in the Senate to the President Obama’s nomination and subsequent recess appointment of the former SEIU and AFL-CIO counsel Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board. The NLRB’s outrageous complaint against The Boeing Company this week for expanding operations in South Carolina proves their point: Becker’s appointment has contributed to a radicalized NLRB that has abandoned its quasi-judicial role for pro-labor activism.

The Senators issued a news release in February as members of Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee urging President Obama to withdraw his latest nomination of Becker made in January.

“I oppose the nomination of Craig Becker absolutely. Over the past ten months, Mr. Becker has made his intention and bias clear. The NLRB is meant to be an impartial authority ensuring organizing freedom in the workplace, not a politicized institution bent on increasing unionization rates at the cost of American jobs. Last year, Mr. Becker was appointed against the will of the Senate. This year, I urge President Obama to work with Senators to identify a replacement nominee,” Senator Enzi said.

“Last year, the Senate rejected Mr. Becker’s nomination because there were serious questions as to whether he could remain impartial while serving on the NLRB. These questions have not been resolved and, if anything, it is more clear now that Mr. Becker is more interested in furthering a pro-union political agenda than in upholding our nation’s labor laws. If the President, as he stated in the State of the Union, is serious about relieving pressure on the business community and ushering in a new era of bipartisanship, he should withdraw the Becker nomination and work with us to find someone that both parties can support,” Senator Hatch said.

Our emphasis. They called it, didn’t they?

As a recess appointee, Becker can continue to serve without Senate confirmation through the end of 2012. Meanwhile, NLRB Chairman Wilma Liebman’s term expires Aug. 27, 2011.

Rumors are circulating of President Obama nominating Becker to Liebman’s five-year term. if Senate Republicans continued to block Becker’s nomination (a safe bet), the President might then recess appoint him to the vacancy. That maneuver would give Becker a position on the NLRB through the end of the 113th Congress, or December 2014.

(UPDATE, Clarification, 9:55 p.m.: Re-reading this Congressional Research Service publication on recess appointments, it appears a recess appointment could not last through 2014. Recess appointments are valid through the next session of the Senate. Thus, a recess appointment made in 2011 or between the two sessions of the 111th Congress would extend through 2012. One made in 2012 — during a spring recess, for example — would extend through the end of the next session, i.e., the first session of the 113th Congress, or through 2013.)

President Obama has also nominated the NLRB’s acting general counsel, Lafe Solomon, to serve a full four-year term as general counsel. (The nomination was announced Jan. 5, 2011.) Solomon, who joined the agency’s staff in 1972, was the NLRB official who actually brought the complaint against Boeing. His name is on the bottom line of the document that, if implemented, would prevent companies from locating business operations where it makes best business sense — a radical expansion of government and union control over the private sector.

No Senate confirmation hearings have been scheduled for Becker, Solomon or President Obama’s nominee to fill a Republican vacancy on the board, Terence F. Flynn, current counsel to NLRB Member Brian Hayes (a Republican).

Standard operating, political procedure in the Senate would be to delay these confirmation hearings as long as possible. But in light of the board’s recent radical decisions, it might be better to schedule the Senate HELP Committee hearings as soon as possible to air out the NLRB’s political, pro-union agenda.

As for the House, we anticipate a renewed push by Republicans to defund the agency. The effort led by Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) was stopped during the February budget debate by a vote of 176-250. But the NLRB’s move against Boeing and the private sector will certainly revive House sentiment against the board.

UPDATE (1 p.m.): It seems possible that Becker and Liebman could both stay on the board via recess appointments. As one close follower of the NLRB informs us, with expiring terms and vacancies, all sorts of political mischief is possible via presidential recess appointments. The terms and vacancies:

  • Chairman Liebman’s term ends Aug. 27, 2011 (Democrat seat)
  • Brian Hayes’ term ends Dec. 16, 2012 (Republican seat)
  • Mark Pearce’s term Aug. 27, 2013 (Democrat seat)
  • Vacant term ends Dec. 16, 2014 (Democrat seat, currently occupied by Craig Becker via recess appointment.)
  • Vacant term ends Aug. 27, 2015 (Republican seat, Terence Flynn nominated to, but not confirmed)

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