Thanks to some very snowy weather, NLRB nominee Craig Becker’s vote before the Senate was postponed a day to today, Tuesday. [It is on the Senate schedule this afternoon, but thanks to Snowmageddon part deux, everyone is keeping an eye on the sky.] One of new Senator Scott Brown’s first votes (which he is likely unhappy about) is the highly contentious vote on Becker, a former lawyer for major labor unions. Thanks to Senate rules, Democrats need 60 votes to confirm him. They’d like Scott Brown to be vote # 60, but it’s been doubtful that he wanted Becker’s nomination to be the first hill he dies on. But last night, Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska indicated he would join the filibuster, making Becker’s confirmation highly unlikely, according to the Wall Street Journal.
From Nelson’s press release:
“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,” said Senator Nelson. “This is of great concern, considering that the Board’s main responsibility is to resolve labor disputes with an even and impartial hand. In addition, the nominee’s statements fly in the face of Nebraska’s Right to Work laws, which have been credited in part with our excellent business climate that has attracted employers and many good jobs to Nebraska. Considering these matters, I will oppose the upcoming cloture motion and the nomination.”
Politico explains what might happen if and when he indeed loses the Senate vote–and what organized labor would like to see happen next:
“Some are urging Obama to install some of his nominees during the Presidents Day recess the week of Feb. 15. On the top of the list: Craig Becker, Obama’s controversial, labor-backed nominee for the National Labor Relations Board. Democrats will try to get the 60 votes necessary to break a GOP filibuster on Becker’s nomination Monday. But with the arrival of Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), they’ve got just 59 likely votes, and it’s not clear whether they can persuade a single Republican senator to cross over on the cloture motion.”
“They can’t let the minority party call the shots when it comes to the handling of critical nominations,” Bill Samuel, legislative director of the powerful AFL-CIO, said, calling on Obama to consider recess appointing Becker if his nomination stalls.”
Some analysts say that Democrats might have enough political cover to have Becker confirmed as a recess appointment (one that Obama can make while the Senate is in recess), while many Republicans say that Democrats have no such thing. There will be a high price to pay, say Republicans, if Becker is pushed through without a vote. Sen. Nelson joining the filibuster throws a wrench in a potential complaint by Democrat’s that Republicans are simply being obstructionists. Nonetheless, Harry Reid threatened recess appointments last Thursday if the Republicans use Scott Brown as a filibuster.