‘Obama Appointed Them Before the Senate Could Even [Hold] Hearings’

In a column posted last night (see the link below) and appearing in print this morning, Washington Examiner senior editorial writer Sean Higgins predicts that today the U.S. Senate’s HELP Committee will rubber-stamp Big Labor President Barack Obama’s slate of five nominees for the powerful National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

But Higgins also believe’s it’s unlikely the full Senate will approve radical ex-union lawyers Mark Pearce, Richard Griffin, and Sharon Block or the President’s other two nominees for NLRB terms any time soon.  He says this even though union-label Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (Nev.) Democrat caucus controls 55 seats out of 10o in the chamber.

Why does Higgins think at least 41 Republican senators, including several who often side with Big Labor on controversial issues, and even perhaps a Democrat or two will be willing to sustain an extended debate to block the President’s NLRB package?  A key reason, in Higgins’ view, is that Obama has overreached:

On January 4, 2012, Obama recess appointed current members Richard Griffin, a former top lawyer with the International Union of Operating Engineers, and Sharon Block, a former Ted Kennedy staffer.

Republicans fumed, particularly over Griffin and Block, since they had acted to keep the Senate technically in session at the time. Democrats applauded the appointments, saying the president was forced into it by Republican intransigence.

The irony here was that the Republicans were using tactics innovated by … Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to keep President George W. Bush from making recess appointments.

Former NLRB chairwoman Wilma Liebman, a Democratic appointee, noted in a Monday Politico op-ed that she once served a 27 month stretch as one of only two board members. (The board requires at least a three-member quorum.)

“Senate Democrats took no action during President George W. Bush’s last year of office on his nominations to fill three vacancies … and decided not to recess at all that year to preclude the president from making any recess appointments,” Liebman wrote.

The difference here is that Bush stopped making the recess appointees when Reid acted to prevent them. Obama has shown no such deference to the balance of powers doctrine, making appointments even when Republicans argued the Senate was technically in session.

In the case of Block and Griffin, Republicans hadn’t even tried to block them. Obama appointed them before the Senate could even [hold] hearings.

This backfired spectacularly in January when an Appeals Court ruled Block and Griffin’s appointments unconstitutional. That meant the NLRB had lacked a valid quorum for a year, putting every decision it made since then in doubt.

The NLRB tried to press on, arguing that other courts had rejected this argument, but ended up asking the Supreme Court to resolve the matter anyway. Just last week, a different court ruled Becker’s recess appointment unconstitutional too.

So, in a fairly transparent bid to extract themselves from this quagmire, the Obama administration is now pushing the GOP to approve a full slate of nominees, including Block and Griffin. The GOP isn’t likely to bite, at least not until the Supreme Court rules — assuming it even takes the case.

Obama’s latest NLRB gambit will fail