Tag: Mike Enzi

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.)

(continue reading…)

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Mine Safety Proposal Includes Sweeping OSHA Changes

A group of Congressional Democrats today announced legislation to make a broad array of changes to workplace safety laws. While the bill primarily seeks to overhaul existing mine safety laws, it includes several onerous provisions taken from the long-pending Protecting America’s Workers Act. Such proposals are simply not the right approach to assist both employers and employees in maintaining safe workplaces.

Instead of promoting a cooperative approach toward workplace safety, the provisions laid out in the Miner Safety and Health Act of 2010 take a punitive approach.

Senators Johnny Isakson and Mike Enzi rightfully point out that today’s efforts stray from previous efforts to develop comprehensive bi-partisan approaches to safety issues, like had been done in 2006. They argue, “Instead of pursuing that productive approach, Democrats have chosen to introduce a sweeping piece of legislation that affects every business in this country and only amplifies the adversarial role of OSHA and MSHA, without increasing safety.”

The proponents of the draft legislation say their motivation comes from the tragedy that occurred at the Upper Big Branch mine, but it’s a mistake to treat such unfortunate incidents as anything other than exceptions. Members of Congress should recognize that for decades, America’s manufacturers have improved the safety of their workplaces. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, incident rates for workplace illnesses and injuries have improved 54 percent since 1994. During this same time frame, workplace fatalities in manufacturing facilities have decreased 38 percent.

Included in this proposal is language that would enable OSHA inspectors to shut down operations and force employers to make changes to their workplaces in response to alleged hazards that may be identified by an inspector. Yet for each day it took the employers to put the required changes into effect, they would be fined $7,000 and, at the same time, not have the ability to appeal the decision of the inspector if his assessment is incorrect. Such an approach represents a huge blow to the due process rights that are inherent in our legal system.

Proponents are focusing their attention on mine safety, but in reality, this package would represent be one of the most sweeping changes to the OSH Act since its inception. In many ways the proposal would actually hinder the safety efforts by manufacturers by promoting an adversarial relationship between OSHA and the employers. We hope that Members of Congress will recognize that this is the wrong approach to our shared goal of making our workplaces safer and threatens the continued trend of improved safety. Placing further burdens on employers at a time when manufacturers are attempting to regain their economic footing hinders our ability to create and retain jobs.

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Financial Regulation or Drive Accountants to Ruin Act?

Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY), the only accountant in the U.S. Senate, took to the Senate floor Thursday to explain why the amendment by Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) to expand liability in securities litigation would be so detrimental to investment. 

The National Association of Manufacturers opposes the Specter amendment (Key Vote letter) because it could render a manufacturer liable for some other company’s securities fraud, the only connection being that the other company sold the manufacturer’s products. Accounting firms, financial consultants and other third parties are also alarmed at the Specter amendment’s attempt to turn them into deep-pocket defendants.

As Sen. Enzi stated:

[The Specter amendment] standard only requires that one knows of the “improper conduct,’” not that he “knows that the conduct is improper.” This is a critical and unacceptable difference. To be clear, the standard does not even meet what is used by the SEC to prosecute criminal aiding and abetting charges. The SEC standard is significantly higher. Because the standard in this amendment is so flawed, we would be opening thousands of innocent small businesses to secondary charges of fraud.

Again, we are not talking about criminal charges. These charges would be strictly considered in a civil court. Keeping this standard would give profit-motivated trial lawyers a vague statutory standard to work from–not a good combination. They would be able to cast a wide net for defendants, and this opens professionals in their company to the costs of discovery and trial, in addition to potential liability for damages awarded in the rest of the criminal case.

Let’s not forget we are talking about accountants, tax preparers, and attorneys who aid everyday companies. This means these professionals would be faced with a standard of evidence they cannot refute or argue, and they could likely be facing unfounded charges. …

Their options under this standard would be pleading out for millions of dollars, even if innocent, or losing even more in the long process of discovery and trial in order to defend themselves and their work. All this for someone who may not even know the criminal or have known that the person’s actions were criminal. Is this how our country’s legal system is supposed to work? Are we going to incentivize frivolous lawsuits? The Specter amendment standard may even go so far as to hold these professionals liable for not finding fraud.

For another, non-manufacturing perspective on the dangers of the Specter legislation (first written as S. 1551) we commend analysis by Kevin LaCroix of the D&O Diary blog, who comments on issues related to directors and officers’ liability. In “Specter’s “Aiding and Abetting” Bill: Why it Could Pass and Why it Matters” last year, LaCroix wrote: (continue reading…)

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Why Not Confirm the Pending NLRB Nominees to the Board?

As noted at Shopfloor yesterday, many labor groups are pressuring President Obama to seat Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) via a recess appointment, despite objections from the Senate. Some have questioned the validity of the Board’s current quorum and have argued that with only two members the Board is crippled. However, if the Senate truly feels that the Board needs an unquestionable quorum to be successful, Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY), who serves at the Ranking Member on the Senate HELP Committee, lays out an easier option: Confirm the two pending nominees.

From a Feb. 9 floor statement:

I wish to point out that there is another way. There at three current vacancies at the National Labor Relations Board, and the HELP Committee has unanimously approved the President’s other two nominees. If the Senate wanted to confirm two new members to the Board, it could have easily done so today. [February 9, 2010] In fact, it could have done so last year. One of these nominees, Mark Pearce [a Democrat], is a labor-side attorney who has spent his career representing labor unions. The other is a Republican nominee with management-side experience in addition to tenures on the staff of the National Labor Relations Board and in the Senate as my labor policy director, Brian Hayes. Yet these nominees did not inspire objections from HELP members on either side of the aisle.

It is disingenuous to suggest that the only way that the Board can function properly is through the controversial action of a recess appointment. If the Senate wants to ensure the effective operation of the NLRB, Senator should move to confirm the other two nominees now awaiting confirmation.

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Senate HELP Committee Approves Becker, 13-10

Labor attorney Craig Becker’s nomination to the National Labor Relations Board is now on very thin ice.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee just voted 13-10 to forward to the full Senate the nomination of Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board. The vote was a partyline vote, Democrats in support, Republicans opposing.

Ranking Member Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) detailed his opposition to the anti-employer views of Becker, an SEIU associate counsel, and questioned the Senate’s rush to approve controversial, labor-backed nominees before Scott Brown of Massachusetts could be seated as a Senator.

Enzi supported Becker’s nomination at an October 2009 markup as part of a package that included Buffalo law labor Mark Pearce and Brian Hayes, a Republican staffer on the HELP Committee. The Senator’s opposition signals united Republican opposition and makes Becker’s confirmation much less likely in the full Senate because Brown will be sworn in before a cloture vote.

The National Association of Manufacturers and nearly 600 manufacturing companies opposed Becker’s nomination. See the February 1 letter.

Earlier posts on Becker’s nomination.

UPDATE (4:25 p.m.): Chairman Tom Harkin’s statement praising Becker from today’s committee meeting.

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SEIU Attorney Craig Becker’s Nomination for NRLB Clears Committee

The Senate HELP Committee met to report out a slate of key labor nominees. While David Michaels’ nomination to head OSHA has been postponed, all other nominees cleared the Committee. Unfortunately, included in this slate was SEIU associate general counsel Craig Becker. Sen. McCain (R-AZ) requested a roll call vote on his nomination, and Ranking Member Sen. Enzi (R-WY) and Sen. Murkowski (R-AK) voted with every Democrat on the Committee in support of Becker’s nomination. Final vote was 15 to 8.

Sen. McCain stated that he plans to place a hold on Mr. Becker’s nomination as it now heads to the Senate floor. (UPDATE AP story.)

For more on Craig Becker’s nomination, click here.

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Sen. Barrasso: What’s NOT in the Health Care Bill

Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) has drawn on his medical expertise — he’s an orthopedic surgeon — to become an effective Republican voice on health care legislation. Today he spoke on a conference call with some bloggers, and we had the opportunity to pose a question about the absence of medical malpractice limits from the bills currently being debated.

Senator Barrasso noted that his fellow Wyoming Senator, Mike Enzi, had sought to amend the Senate bill in the HELP Committee, where Enzi is the ranking minority member. Barrasso:

[We] all believe that there are so many tests ordered that don’t really help an individual get better but help a doctor avoid a suit that’s very costly, it’s probably hundreds of billions of dollars, different estimates out there…. [Sen.] Enzi brought in an amendment, and he just wanted to put in a pilot project to take a look at some different ways to deal with liability. And even the pilot project was defeated in the HELP Committee

When the President went to the American Medical Association and said we need tort reform, and he got a big cheer, and then he said, but I don’t mean caps, and then there were boos – there’s nothing in any of these bills, not the Finance Committee bill that they’re working on, not the House bill or not the Senate bill — the Senate HELP Committee bill – that in any talks about what everyone knows is a major cost of wasteful spending in the American health care system.

To just ignore that to me is the President just paying lip service to it, but not really in any way wanting it done.

When I tell people that they ought to read the bill, they ought not read the bills to see what’s in the bill, but they’ve got to think what things are not included in the bill. There’s nothing in any of these bills that deal with lawsuit abuse.

Senator Enzi issued a news release on July 9, “Democrats Reject Enzi Proposal to Cut Health Care Costs
by Reducing Frivolous Lawsuits.
” The amendment tracked with a bill he and Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) introduced in 2007, S. 1481, the Fair and Reliable Medical Justice Act.

(Barrasso sound clip.)

UPDATE (4:15 p.m.): Here’s the entire blogger call, .mp3 file.

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Health Care, Taxes, Civil Society and Jungle Gyms

Waiting for the CBO cost estimate for Sen. Kennedy’s health care plan, we see the following items of interest:

Washington Post, page one, “Obama Is Pressed to Tax Health Benefits“: “The White House is caught in a battle within its own party over how to finance a comprehensive overhaul of America’s health-care system, as key Democrats advocate a tax plan that could require President Obama to break his campaign pledge not to raise taxes on the middle class”

Washington Post, Robert Samuelson, “Wrong Way on Health ‘Reform’“: “It’s hard to know whether President Obama’s health-care ‘reform’ is naive, hypocritical or simply dishonest. Probably all three. The president keeps saying it’s imperative to control runaway health spending. He’s right. The trouble is that what’s being promoted as health-care ‘reform’ almost certainly won’t suppress spending and, quite probably, will do the opposite.”

Washington Times, Mark Steyn, “Being taken care of weakens us“: “[To] demand a government organized on the principle of pre-emptively ‘taking care’ of potential vulnerabilities is to make all of us, in the long run, far more vulnerable. A society of children cannot survive, no matter how all-embracing the government nanny.”

Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY), ranking Republican, Senate HELP Committee, “What’s in the Fine Print? Sidewalks, Grocery Stores, and Jungle Gyms“: ““The Kennedy-Dodd bill will pave sidewalks, build jungle gyms, and open grocery stores, but it won’t bring down health care costs or make quality coverage more affordable…In a time of record debt and deficits, how can Democrats justify the wasteful spending in this bill?”

Washington Post, Chris Cillizza, “Foes of Health-Care Plan Off to a Slow Start“: “In the health-care debate, most of the interest groups have stayed at the negotiating table hoping that, as the old joke goes, ‘the cannibals would eat them last,’ ” said Larry McCarthy, a Republican consultant who closely tracks the world of outside interest groups”

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Card Check: Senators Stand Up for Employees’ Rights

Yesterday several leading Senators held a press conference in the Capitol with business leaders to warn about the consequences of the misnamed Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). The Senators who participated (including Sens. Hatch, Enzi, Ensign and Senate Republican Leader McConnell) highlighted some of the lesser known provisions in the bill, such as binding arbitration.

Senator Hatch declared the EFCA ,: “… one of the most heinous pieces of legislation in history,” Hatch also pointed out one of the unfortunate realities of card check systems , i.e “These union organizers will keep coming back until you sign the card. Some people just sign the card to get rid of them.”

Senator Enzi explained that EFCA would lead to federally appointed arbitrators actually setting  wages, pension and health care benefits, work hours and other terms. The Senator said:

“If we adopt this bill, labor and management will no longer negotiate most new contracts and third parties will decide all the important issues such as pay, hours, benefits and working conditions.”

Under EFCA,  bureaucrats from Washington would have unchecked power to impose a two-year binding contract, one that would not even allow the employees to ratify it or approve its terms. Government knows best?  Not when it comes to running your own business. 

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