Capitol Hill Bureau Chief
Craig Becker, President Obama's nominee to the National Labor Relations Board, was stopped by a Republican filibuster Tuesday more than 10 months after Obama chose him for the post. The Senate voted 52 to 33 to move Becker's nomination forward, but that fell well short of the 60 votes required to overcome a GOP filibuster. Fifteen senators did not vote because of snow storms wreaking havoc on Washington's airports.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's choice to take a vote on Becker's nomination Tuesday, knowing it would fail, raised speculation that President Obama will use a recess appointment to install his nominee without the approval of the Senate, a maneuver used often by President George W. Bush and derided by Reid at the time.
Becker was nominated last April to become one of five members of the NLRB, which oversees labor elections and rules on cases involving labor unions and corporate management under the National Labor Relations Act.
As the associate general counsel at Service Employees International Union, one of the largest and most politically powerful unions in the country, Becker is "labor's secret weapon," The Wall Street Journal said.
It warned that he would put a fist on the scale for big labor in any labor dispute that comes before the NLRB.
Joining in the group that stopped Becker from receiving a final vote were newly minted Sen. Scott Brown, who lived up to his promise to become the 41st vote (or the 33rd on a snowy day?) against the Democratic agenda, and Democrats Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Ben Nelson from Nebraska. Lincoln and Nelson have both suffered devastating drops in their home-state approval ratings since the health care reform debate and are working to scratch their way back to 50 percent before Election Day in November.
Nelson said he opposed Becker's appointment because he felt Becker "would take an aggressive personal agenda to the NLRB, and that he would pursue a personal agenda there, rather than that of the administration." Nelson also said that Becker's past positions on union rights in labor disputes "fly in the face" of Nebraska's status as a right-to-work state.
Following the vote, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) blasted Republicans for stopping the Senate from taking a final vote on Becker's nomination, which would likely pass with more than the 51 votes needed.
"I hear them saying, let's not rush this. It's been more than 10 months. Senate Republicans are the only people in the United States of America who think it should take more than 10 months to give us an option to vote up or down on a nominee who is clearly qualified," Brown said. "I think they're making the case for staying in the minority a long time."
Earlier in the day, Obama extolled the virtues of bipartisanship in an appearance before the White House press corps, saying that bipartisanship "
depends on a willingness among both Democrats and Republicans to put aside matters of party for the good of the country."
Moments later, he accused Senate Republicans of playing politics with his nominees and warned he would use an end-run around the Senate if he can't get his nominees through the chamber.
f the Senate does not act to confirm these nominees, I will consider making several recess appointments during the upcoming recess," Obama said. "Because we can't afford to allow politics to stand in the way of a well-functioning government."