Senate Democrats failed to overcome a Republican filibuster blocking President Obama’s nomination of union lawyer Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka noted:
It is reprehensible that a minority in the U.S. Senate has blocked an up-or-down vote on Craig Becker, nominated seven months ago by President Obama to serve on the [NLRB]. Once again, a Republican-led filibuster has put political interests over the needs of America’s working families. For more than two years, the NLRB has had only two of its five members. Without a fully staffed NLRB, working families face a major disadvantage in winning justice in the workplace.
Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown emphasized that for decades it has been well-established that Republican Presidents nominate pro-management individuals and Democratic Presidents nominate pro-union individuals. David Dayen explains why the Senate Republicans actions are so outrageous:
Why is the Becker vote drawing such outrage? It’s difficult to find any other instance of a nominee for the National Labor Relations Board even coming up for a cloture vote at all. Becker’s confirmation hearing was the first for a non-chairman NLRB nominee since 1980. As Sherrod Brown notes in Ryan Grim’s piece, for decades, Republican Presidents have nominated pro-management types to the NLRB and Democrats have nominated pro-labor types. Understand that the NLRB arose out of the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, and here was Franklin Roosevelt’s signing statement on that act: “This act defines, as a part of our substantive law, the right of self-organization of employees in industry for the purpose of collective bargaining, and provides methods by which the government can safeguard that legal right.” Having board members not disposed to labor would actually violate the spirit of the board, yet that has been done consistently with Republican nominees.
So that’s the background for why Senate Democrats are so fed up. The fact that Becker actually got 61% of the votes of those present yesterday may also be a factor. As Ben Eidelson notes, the Senate is by nature an undemocratic institution in that the representation is skewed toward small states, and sometimes a filibuster represents the votes of a majority of the US population. In fact, that happens most of the time – 64% – when Democrats are filibustering a Republican majority, and just 3% of the time when Republicans filibuster a Democratic majority. But this is not how we count votes in the US Senate, with each Senator getting the proportion of the vote of the population he or she represents. In a perfect world, a unicameral legislature would serve the nation well. But until that time, the 60-vote hurdle, now being trotted out for routine appointments, is too onerous for a democracy to function, particularly one with such unbalanced ideological rigidity from one party.
President Obama should nip this in the bud immediately. He can do so by making a recess appointment of Craig Becker.