Pressure from the labor unions nearly succeeded in ending the filibuster for presidential nominees.
“I think the [National Labor Relations Board] is the real point of contention,” said Senator John Thune, number three in senate GOP leadership, last night after senators met in the old senate chamber to discuss a compromise.
Democrats wanted Republicans to confirm NLRB nominees Sharon Block and Richard Griffin. But Republicans, pointing to two court decisions this year that found that President Obama acted unconstitutionally by appointing them during a senate time that wasn’t technically a recess, are adamant that they will not support Block and Griffin.
But in a deal reached today, Democrats agreed to find two new NLRB nominees in exchange for Republicans agreeing to provide the votes necessary to allow debate and confirmation on the nominees.
Last night, Thune told reporters that it would be “a really heavy lift” to persuade Republican senators to permit Block and Griffin to be confirmed, but added that there were “a lot of Republicans” who would support new nominees to the NLRB.
It is unclear whether the labor unions approve the deal. Reid has been under heavy pressure from labor unions (sic) to end the filibuster for presidential nominees.
“We want to get the NLRB confirmed,” said AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka last week. “That’s what we want to do. They can do it the easy way or the hard way. I hope they do it the easy way. If not, we want done it the hard way because we have to have a functioning NLRB.”
He called on Reid to “pull the trigger,” on the nuclear option, which would end the filibuster for presidential nominees, and said that Democrats “been totally obstructed” by Republicans’ refusing to allow debate (and thus, a confirmation vote) on a few presidential nominees.
Senate Republicans have pushed back on the obstructionist charge. Since Obama has become president, the Senate has confirmed 1,560 of his nominees, including controversial Defense secretary pick Chuck Hagel.
In a floor speech last week, McConnell spoke about the pressure unions were exerting on Democrats. “It’s an open secret at this point that Big Labor and others on the Left are putting a lot of pressure on Senate Democrats to change the rules of the Senate,” he remarked.
“The real reason,” McConnell added. “that the Far-Left and Big Labor are leaning hard on Democrats to ‘go nuclear’, and that the Majority Leader is about to sacrifice his reputation and this institution to go along with it, is because what they really want is for the Senate to ratify the President’s unconstitutional decision to illegally appoint nominees to the NLRB and the CFPB without the input of the Senate.”
The labor unions’ pressure was felt at the senators’ meeting last night, where senators lined up to give speeches. According to a Republican aide familiar with the meeting, Senator Tom Harkin (D., Iowa) gave a speech in the old senate chamber that “sounded like the AFL-CIO wrote the whole thing.”
In a floor speech last week, McConnell also spoke about the pressure unions were exerting on Democrats. “It’s an open secret at this point that Big Labor and others on the Left are putting a lot of pressure on Senate Democrats to change the rules of the Senate,” he remarked.
Republicans, concerned that Democrats would eventually extend eliminating the filibuster from other nominees, such as judicial nominees, have been actively working to avert the end of the filibuster for presidential nominees.
But it’s worth remembering that Democrats were willing to end of the long-established rules of the Senate just to appease the unions.