On Tuesday, the Senate GOP–with the support of Democrats Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Blanche Lincoln (D-AR)–successfully filibustered the nomination of Craig Becker to serve a term on the National Labor Relations Board. All told, because of snow-related absences, 33 senators were able to block the confirmation of a nominee who had the support of a significant majority of members. That has many in Washington asking: Will President Obama offer Becker a recess appointment? Obama has thus far been reluctant to exploit that tool–but if he does, he can point to the record of his predecessor, President George W. Bush, who recess appointed seven of his nine NLRB nominees.
Some of Bush’s NLRB nominees were Senate confirmed, including Peter Hurtgen and Peter Schaumber who each served multiple terms, including one under a recess appointment. But the vast majority were able to circumvent the standard process.
According to records kept by NLRB, the list of Bush’s NLRB appointees–including both recess appointments and confirmations–is as follows.
- Peter J. Hurtgen (R) served under recess appointment by President Bush from 8/31/01 – 8/1/02.
Michael J. Bartlett (R) served entire term under recess appointment by President Bush. 01/22/02 – 11/22/02 William B. Cowen (R) served entire term under recess appointment by President Bush. 01/22/02 – 11/22/02 R. Alexander Acosta (R) was confirmed 11/22/02 and served from 12/17/02 – 08/21/03 Robert J. Battista (R) was confirmed by the Senate on 11/22/02 and served from 12/17/02 – 12/16/07 Peter C. Schaumber (R) served under recess appointment by President Bush from 9/1/05 – 8/3/06 Ronald E. Meisburg (R) served under recess appointment by President Bush from 01/12/04 – 12/08/04. Peter N. Kirsanow (R) served under recess appointment by President Bush from 01/04/06 – 12/31/07 Dennis P. Walsh (D) serving under recess appointment by President Bush from 01/17/06 – present.
The GOP’s stated objection to Becker is that he’s too pro-labor, but many of Bush’s NLRB picks were corporate lawyers who represented firms in labor disputes.
Nevertheless, after a small minority blocked Becker’s confirmation, trumping the 52 vote majority, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) said “I sincerely hope the White House does not circumvent the will of the Senate by appointing him when the Senate is out of session.”
However, with dozens of executive branch nominees backlogged by Republican obstruction, Obama has threatened to go there, and he has the backing of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka to do so. Will he go there?