One of the board's members -- Craig Becker -- had to step aside this week after his recess appointment expired. That left the NLRB with only two sitting members -- not enough, according to the Supreme Court, to constitute the quorum the board requires to function.
Republicans were threatening to block Obama's NLRB nominees in a bid to extinguish the board's power. So just as with Obama's decision to recess appoint Richard Cordray to run the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, this move does more than fill vacancies. It actually restores the power the agency was given under the law -- power Republicans were hoping to strip without passing new legislation.
That's the key thread connecting these recess appointments -- and why other languishing nominees haven't been recess appointed. At least not yet.