While the Senate’s Democratic rulers will ignore a Republican bill passed by the House last week aimed at conditionally shuttering the National Labor Relations Board, the upper chamber’s GOP minority is determined to keep the panel in limbo until a dispute over President Obama’s “recess appointments” is resolved.
“At a minimum, the president needs to send two new Democrat nominees to replace the two who were unconstitutionally appointed,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican.
The standoff stems from Mr. Obama’s January 2012 appointment of three members to the board — which resolves complaints of unfair labor practices and conducts elections for labor union representation — when the Senate was on break. Presidents can circumvent required Senate approval if the chamber is on recess, a move Mr. Obama deemed necessary because of repeated GOP blocks of his nominations to the panel.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled in January that Mr. Obama violated law when he bypassed the Senate, saying recess appointments are only constitutional if the vacancies and appointments occur in between official sessions of Congress. The ruling cast a legal cloud over hundreds of other rulings by the board.
The NLRB says it plans to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.
With the appeals court invalidating Mr. Obama’s appointments, Chairman Mark Gaston Pearce is the five-seat panel’s only undisputed member. The board can issue decisions only when it has at least three sitting members.
Mr. Obama last week nominated three candidates for full terms for the board — two Republicans and a Democrat. While Republicans applauded their party’s candidates, the Democrat — Mr. Pearce — will be a tough sell to the GOP.
“The Senate should give [Mr. Pearce’s] nomination additional scrutiny given his decision to continue purporting to exercise government power, despite the circuit court’s ruling that he does not lawfully possess it,” Mr. McConnell said.
The Republican-controlled House on Friday voted 219 to 209 to prevent the labor board from taking action until the depleted panel has a quorum, or until the Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of Mr. Obama’s appointments. No Democrats voted for the measure, while 10 Republicans opposed it.
Both sides claim to be acting on behalf of American workers.
“This is another in an endless series of Republican attacks on the foundations of the American middle class,” said Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro, Connecticut Democrat. “If we are going to rebuild a globally competitive economy that works for everyone, we need to let the NLRB do its work.”
Said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican: “The House acted to protect working families and their employers from greater uncertainty and policies that threaten jobs and growth.”
Labor groups condemned the bill, saying it was the latest attack by Republicans in their long-standing feud with unions.
“While the House bill should be dead on arrival in the Senate, so too should the Senate Republican strategy to obstruct nominees and derail the basic protections to workers offered by a fully functional NLRB,” said Shane Larson, legislative director for the Communication Workers of America.