Tag Archives: Craig Becker

Monday status conference: A fight during recess

Last week, during oral arguments at the Supreme Court, Deputy Solicitor General Neal K. Katyal urged the justices to find that the National Labor Relations Board had authority to act and issue opinions with only two members – as it had for more than two years.

The fact that the Senate had held up the confirmation of President Obama’s three nominees to the board – and had in fact blocked one of the candidates, union attorney Craig Becker, with a failed cloture vote – “underscores the general contentious nature of the appointment process with respect to this set of issues,” Katyal told the justices.

“And the recess appointment power doesn’t work why?” asked Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.

Over the weekend Obama showed that the power does indeed work. With the Senate in recess for more than three days, Obama made 15 recess appointments to administration posts – including Becker to the NLRB.

Late last week Republican senators as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce urged Obama not the use the recess appointment power for Becker. They argued that Becker represented a campaign promise made by Obama to unions during the election, and that Becker would essentially push to authorize “card check” unionizations in worplaces after legislation that would have done so lost steam in Congress. Much more on the Becker brouhaha here from Lawyers USA.

Meanwhile oral arguments continue today at the Supreme Court. The justices will hear arguments in cases involving double jeopardy and securities law.

In other news:

Predicting Stevens’ replacement: Since no one else is waiting for Justice John Paul Stevens to actually retire before opining about who might replace him, we won’t either. (Lawyers USA)

Gun law ok’d: A a federal court has upheld the gun regulations enacted in the District of Columbia after the Supreme Court’s ruling in D.C. v. Heller. (The BLT Blog)

Money talk: What’s the impact of the latest federal court ruling rejecting a constitutional challenge by the Republican Party to some federal limits on donations to political parties? SCOTUSblog explains. (SCOTUSblog)

Potential roadblock for NLRB nominee

UPDATE: Becker’s nomination was blocked in the Senate Tuesday afternoon. The lawmakers voted 52-33 to move forward with Becker’s nominatoin, short of the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster.

Today Senate Republicans, fresh off the addition of a 41st member in Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, may test their filibuster power on one of President Obama’s nominees for the National Labor Relations Board.

Members of the Senate are set to take a procedural vote on Craig Becker’s nomination, which would fill one of three vacancies that has hamstrung the normally five-member agency. It takes 60 votes to end debate over Becker’s nomination and send it to a full vote. But if Republicans join in opposition, that number won’t be reached.

Even Sen. Ben Nelson, a conservative Democrat, said he would join GOP members in voting no on Becker.

“Mr. Becker’s previous statements strongly indicate that he 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 said in a statement.

Some lawmakers cite legal writings by Becker supportive of measures such as card check elections. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been vocal in its opposition. But Sen. Tom Harkin, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said the criticism is unwarranted, a single NLRB member couldn’t implement such massive changes to the labor law system even if he wanted to.

“I don’t have any illusions that those important changes can somehow be accomplished administratively and neither does Craig Becker,” Harkin said.

Brouhaha over Becker’s NLRB nomination

While nominees to the National Labor Relations Board have historically faced a low key and drama-free road to confirmation, recently it seems nothing involving the NLRB is without controversy. And the nomination of Craig Becker, President Barack Obama’s pick to fill one the three vacancies on the Board, is no exception.

As you know, the normally five-member board has operated with only two members for more than two years. And the validity of opinions the Board has issued since January 2008 are now in question, and the Supreme Court is set to decide if the rulings were made by a properly constituted quorum.

President Bush’s nominees to fill the vacancies stalled in the Democratic-controlled Senate. And now Becker’s nomination is facing strong opposition by Republicans and business groups who say the former attorney for the Service Employees International Union and AFL-CIO would usher in anti-business policies.

As Becker appeared at a hearing held on his nomination yesterday – the first time in 17 years that a hearing has been called to vet a NLRB nominee – The U.S. Chamber of Commerce blasted Senate Democrats, accusing them of trying to jam Becker’s nomination through before the Senate’s newest Republican, Sen.-elect Scott Brown, is seated.

“For the first time since 1993, the Chamber is taking the unusual step of opposing a nominee to the NLRB,” said a statement from Randel K. Johnson, the Chamber’s vice president for Labor, Immigration, and Employee Benefits. “It would be an egregious mistake and would set a dangerous precedent for the Senate to push this nomination through during a lame-duck period. The NLRB has the ability to unduly increase union power and leverage it without intervention by Congress. Confirming Becker will tilt the balance in labor law dramatically in favor of union special interests.”

Sen. Tom Harkin, the Democratic chairman of the Senate committee vetting Becker’s nomination, said Democrats have given GOP members what they want.

“We are here, today, to take the rather unusual step of holding a hearing on a nominee for the National Labor Relations Board,” Harkin said at the hearing.  “It has not been the standard practice of this Committee to hold hearings on NLRB nominations…However, my colleagues on the other side of the aisle have requested a hearing.  And while I am reluctant to further prolong the consideration of an obviously well-qualified nominee, I was willing to accommodate that request because I think the work of the NLRB is tremendously important and deserves this Committee’s attention.”

But Republicans including Sen. John McCain grilled Becker over issues such as card check elections and how Becker would handle cases involving the unions he worked for in the past.

Becker said he would rule fairly and recuse himself when necessary. “I will abide, Sen. McCain, with the terms of that pledge scrupulously, and as I indicated, if any other matters come up outside of the scope of that pledge where any party might think that I might not be impartial, I will consider the matter…. and if necessary recuse myself from those cases,” he said.

“That’s not good enough,” McCain replied.