by Nicole Flatow
Several hours after news broke that President Obama would appoint Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Obama announced he would also fill all three empty slots on the National Labor Relations Board.
The move reaffirms President Obama’s stance that he is able to make recess appointments while Congress is on winter break, even as Senate Republicans attempt to block them by holding “pro forma” sessions every few days.
In making the appointments, Obama has prevented the NLRB from coming to a standstill. After board member Craig Becker’s term expired yesterday, the agency was left without the required three members to legally operate, as determined by a Supreme Court decision last year.
In spite of the approaching expiration of Becker’s term, all 47 Senate Republicans signed a letter to President Obama last month asking him to refrain from making recess appointments to the NLRB, and threatening to continue blocking other nominations, according to Politico.
The agency, which oversees activity between unions and employers, was the object of significant conservative fury in 2011. The Huffington Post summarizes:
From a controversial complaint filed against the Boeing Company to new rules pertaining to union elections, the board issued a string of decisions and rules that conservatives said tilted the playing field toward unions and away from business owners. While Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and some of his colleagues went so far as to threaten to defund the board, labor groups and worker advocates hailed its actions as commonsense and beneficial to the middle class.
“The American people deserve to have qualified public servants fighting for them every day — whether it is to enforce new consumer protections or uphold the rights of working Americans,” Obama said in a statement. “We can’t wait to act to strengthen the economy and restore security for our middle class and those trying to get in it, and that’s why I am proud to appoint these fine individuals to get to work for the American people.”
A number of other nominees are still awaiting action by the Senate or President Obama, including 19 nominees to the federal courts. Just before the Senate recessed, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had moved to quickly dispense with more than 50 nominees ripe for an immediate Senate vote. But Minority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked up-or-down votes on all of them, saying that he would not agree to any confirmations without assurances from President Obama that he would not make any appointments during the winter break.
ThinkProgress notes that President Obama has made fewer recent appointments than any recent president.