Lafe Solomon is one of the most powerful bureaucrats in America and is about to get much more powerful. He is the acting general counsel for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), best known for suing Boeing Co. over the opening of a billion-dollar manufacturing plant that created thousands of jobs in South Carolina. He also is suing four states - Arizona, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah - for enacting state constitutional protections for secret ballot voting. He is about to inherit broad powers intended to be exercised by the NLRB itself, effectively making him President Obama’s newest czar. Perhaps he’ll be called the “no new jobs czar.”
The NLRB is presently operating with three board members, two of whom are left-wing union lawyers. One of those union lawyers, Craig Becker, is a recess appointee whose term will expire at the end of this year. The Supreme Court has said the board cannot legally function with only two members. However, Mr. Obama is not inclined to appoint an additional member reasonable enough to pass Senate confirmation.
The board, therefore, adopted a Nov. 3 order that would clarify how it intends to operate when it no longer has a quorum. The order says: “the Board has decided to temporarily delegate to the General Counsel full authority on all court litigation matters that would otherwise require Board authorization, and full authority to certify the results of any secret ballot election.”
Yet little is known about him, a career bureaucrat without much of a public body of work. We do know - from the Boeing litigation he is spearheading and his lawsuits against the states - that he has an aggressively pro-union, anti-business mentality. Thus, the order handing him powers intended to be exercised by the board is a dangerous move that the U.S. economy can’t afford.
Mr. Solomon has served as acting general counsel since June 21, 2010, and his nomination was officially submitted to the Senate on Jan. 5, 2011, but he has not even had his nomination to the position considered by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. That committee, chaired by veteran Sen. Tom Harkin, Iowa Democrat, owes it to the American people to stop delaying this nomination.
Recent revelations underscore the urgency of the situation. A Freedom of Information Act request revealed that Mr. Solomon smugly stated in an internal NLRB email: “The article gave me a new idea. You go to Geneva and I get a job with Airbus. We screwed up the U.S. economy and now we can tackle Europe.”
Mr. Solomon will try to downplay this as a joke, but it is extremely serious for the thousand workers at the Boeing facility in Charleston, S.C., at risk of having their plant shut down by his frivolous complaint. Moreover, it is extremely serious for many other companies who fear copycat complaints and many foreign companies that have chosen to skip the United States altogether to avoid the unpredictable conditions Mr. Solomon has created, dampening capital investment and job creation across the country.
Senate Democrats have stalled action on the nomination all year. They are clearly embarrassed to vote to approve him, but unwilling to stand up to Mr. Obama, reject the Solomon nomination and demand a more reasonable appointee to the position. Now with Mr. Solomon poised to gain much greater powers - powers that certainly can be used to further damage the U.S. economy - the American people can’t keep waiting.
Mr. Harkin should release the Solomon nomination from committee, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid should schedule an immediate floor vote so the American people can find out where every U.S. senator stands on this man’s fitness to continue in his current capacity.
Phil Kerpen is vice president for policy at Americans for Prosperity and author of “Democracy Denied: How Obama Is Ignoring You and Bypassing Congress to Radically Transform America - and How to Stop Him” (BenBella Books, 2011).