As members of Congress prepare to head out of town for a two-week break, pro- and anti-union forces are readying for a possible recess appointment of labor lawyer Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board.
Republican senators sent a letter to President Barack Obama today asking him not to use his authority to appoint Becker (pictured above).
“To do so would bypass the advice and consent traditions of the Senate,” reads the letter, which was organized by Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and John McCain (R-Ariz.). It goes on, “We oppose Mr. Becker’s recess appointment because of his extensive, highly controversial writings, and his entire legal and scholarly career, all of which indicate that he could not be viewed as impartial, unbiased, or objective in deciding cases before this quasi-judicial agency.”
Several business and conservative groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Americans for Limited Government, joined the GOP senators in opposing a recess appointment.
On the other side are union-backed groups that have supported Becker since Obama nominated him 11 months ago. Kimberly Brown, executive director of American Rights at Work, said in a statement this week that Obama should “use the same power of recess appointment exercised by his five predecessors — including George W. Bush — and appoint his nominees to the National Labor Relations Board over the Easter congressional recess. America’s working families, struggling to make ends meet in the worst economy since the Great Depression, deserve no less.”
Becker has served as associate general counsel to two of the nation’s largest labor organizations, the Service Employees International Union and the AFL-CIO. Prior to a congressional recess in February, opponents successfully filibustered his nomination and left it hanging on the Senate’s calendar.
The five-seat NLRB currently has only two members, and the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday on whether those two can issue decisions on their own. Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. raised the issue of recess appointments when he asked at one point, “And the recess appointment power doesn’t work why?”
Deputy Solicitor General Neal Katyal replied that the recess appointment power “is potentially available to avert the future crisis,” presumably a reference to the possibility that the Court might strike down hundreds of decisions reached by the two-member board in the past 26 months.
Awaiting votes by the full Senate are two other noncontroversial NLRB nominees: Senate Republican staffer Brian Hayes and Buffalo labor lawyer Mark Pearce.
Marcia Coyle contributed to this post. Photo by Diego M. Radzinschi.