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Congress Debates A Recess Appointment For A Pro-Union Appointee

March 26, 2010 - by Eric Naing

Now that Democrats have put the finishing touches on health care reform, they can get back to the truly important work of Congress: bickering with Republicans over Obama appointees. With a two-week Easter recess looming, players in both parties are wondering whether President Obama will use that time to pluck the pro-labor Craig Becker out of Senate confirmation Purgatory and appoint him to the National Labor Relations Board.

The NRLB is a government agency that handles union elections and monitors unfair labor practices. The five-member board that governs the NRLB has only had two members for the past two years, first because Democrats objected to then-President Bush’s pro-business nominees and now because Republicans object to President Obama’s pro-labor nominees. Becker, a former associate general counsel for the AFL-CIO and SEIU, is one such nominee.

Last month, Democrats fell eight votes short of the 60 needed to end a filibuster on Becker’s confirmation. Since then, speculation has raged over whether President Obama would bypass the Senate and appoint Becker to the NRLB while Congress is in recess. Both Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Sen. Ton Harkin [D-IA] have suggested that Obama is considering that action.

Last Friday, 41 Republican senators sent the president a letter urging him not to appoint Becker via recess appointment. Sen. John McCain [R, AZ] a co-author of the letter said such a move would defy the will of the Senate:

The U.S. Senate has made its feelings clear on Mr. Becker and his ability to serve in a fair and impartial manner as a member of the NLRB… If this administration chooses to recess appoint Mr. Becker, it would be just another example of putting the will of one special interest group over the will of the American people.

In his eight years in office, President Bush made 171 recess appointments. In the same amount of time, President Clinton made 131. Obama has yet to make one. In fact, he is the only president in three decades to not make a recess appointment in his first year in office.

In an interesting side-note, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts even wondered why Obama hasn’t utilized the recess appointment to nominate members to the NLRB.

The Senate recently voted 49-39 to approve an Easter recess adjournment resolution, so should Obama chose to make the recess appointment, the path has been cleared. A recess appointed Becker, however, would only be able to serve through the end of the next Congressional session – in other words, through 2011.







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