President Obama will nominate two longtime labor lawyers to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), withdrawing two previously appointed candidates as part of a new deal to fully staff the NLRB and avert what is known as the “nuclear option” – a plan by Senate Democrats to eliminate filibusters of presidential nominations in the future.
The new nominees are Kent Hirozawa, who currently serves as chief counsel to the National Labor Relations Board chairman, and Nancy Schiffer, the general counsel at the AFL-CIO.
Under the deal, crafted by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Republicans promised to swiftly confirm the presidential NLRB nominations if the president agreed to withdraw nominees Sharon Block and Richard Griffin and replace them. Republicans claim the Block and Griffin appointments were unconstitutional because they were made during a Senate recess – even though presidents on both sides of the aisle have made such appointments many times throughout our nation’s history. The Supreme Court is set to consider the legality of the appointments this fall.
This latest deal was made in an attempt to defuse Reid’s promise to invoke the “nuclear option” if Republicans refused to come to the table. The move would have lowered the vote threshold for presidential nominations from 60 votes to 51.
The NLRB, the nation’s top governing body for labor disputes, has been virtually powerless to enforce its decisions since the D.C. Circuit Court ruled the Block and Griffin appointments unconstitutional. If no action is taken, the Board will be left without a quorum and therefore unable to function when Chairman Mark Pearce’s term ends in August.
Also as part of the new deal, Senate Republicans also agreed to push through the president’s nominations for Secretary of Labor, Tom Perez, and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, Gina McCarthy. Both have since been confirmed.