By George Miller
On March 27th, the White House issued a press release to announce that President Obama has used his recess appointment power to appoint union-side labor attorneys Craig Becker and Mark Gaston Pierce–both Democrats–to fill two vacancies on the National Labor Relations Board. By law, recess appointees can serve without Senate confirmation until the end of the next session of Congress, which would be at the end of 2011.
This move is in response to the Senate’s previous refusal to confirm President Obama’s nomination of Becker, who is perceived by Senate Republicans to be biased due to the positions he currently holds in the General Counsel’s offices of both the AFL-CIO and the Service Employees International Union.
President Obama’s recess appointment of Becker and Pierce leaves in limbo his previous nomination of management-side labor attorney Brian Hayes, a Republican. The President originally nominated Becker, Hayes, and Pierce as an “all or none” package to fill the three existing vacancies at the NLRB. Senate opposition to Becker resulted in no vote on this package, as the Senate could not muster enough votes to invoke cloture of a threatened Republican filibuster.
It is possible that the President will nominate a fifth candidate, or he can simply leave the fifth seat vacant and allow the NLRB to operate with four members, three Democrats and one Republican. The term of Republican Peter Schaumber, current NLRB Chairman, expires in August of this year, while the term of the other current member, Democrat Wilma Liebman, does not expire until August 2011.