The Obama Administration, expecting that we’re in an age where the normal rules of politics apply and not an age of nullification, nominated two labor officials for open slots on the National Labor Relations Board. That board will see previous recess appointments expire at the end of the year, leaving it without a quorum and unable to function. The two appointees would fill the Democratic spots on the board.
Obama picked Sharon Block, a deputy assistant secretary for congressional affairs at the Department of Labor and Richard Griffin, general counsel for the International Union of Operating Engineers, to join the panel [...]
Given recent criticism of the NLRB by prominent Republicans as well as recent successful efforts to block nominees for administration posts, confirmation of the NLRB nominees is not assured.
Senate Democrats began urging Obama to make a recess appointment of former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau after Republicans blocked his nomination last week.
On Monday, Senate Republicans also blocked Obama’s nomination for U.S. ambassador to El Salvador as well. In response, the White House said the GOPer’s obstruction of the nomination was motivated by partisanship.
What you’re seeing here is a growing boldness on the part of Senate Republicans to block appointments of Presidential nominees. Sometimes it’s because they don’t like the nominees, but in the case of the CFPB and the NLRB, it’s simply because they don’t like the agency. Republicans see an NLRB without a quorum and unable to issue rulings as their favorite kind of NLRB. So their plan is to keep those seats vacant, so businesses can intimidate workers, block union elections and harass union organizers with impunity.
If no price is paid for this obstruction, there’s no reason for Senate Republicans to stop. The only way that they back down is if the President uses the recess appointment power, making their obstruction on nominations meaningless. As I’ve said repeatedly, the President has all the authority he needs to make a recess appointment. He can even do it in one of three ways. He could use his constitutional power to adjourn Congress, and recess-appoint thusly. He could make appointments inside the traditional three-day recess window that has been used for some time, but which is not a statutory requirement. Or, he can wait until the inter-session recess, where Congress has to stop the first session of this Congress and start the second session, and make recess appointments in that period. None of these options are any more power-expanding than what Senate Republicans are doing right now, by blocking the ability of legally constituted federal agencies to function simply because they don’t like them.
So nominating people to the NLRB is one thing; appointing them is quite another. The President should not give Senate obstructionists the benefit of the doubt anymore. He needs to make some recess appointments.