This vote was on confirming the nomination of Craig Becker to be a member of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the agency that administers the primary law governing relations between unions and private sector employees.
Republicans had threatened to hold up his consideration indefinitely with a filibuster, causing Senate Majority Harry Reid, D-Nev., to file what is known as a “cloture motion,” which, in essence, is a vote on bringing debate on an issue to a close.
If the Senate votes to “invoke cloture” – or bring debate to a close – then lawmakers must either hold a vote on the legislation, amendment or motion in question, or move on to other business. This type of motion is most often called on contentious legislation where the leadership is concerned that consideration could be held up indefinitely by a handful of senators.
In Becker’s case, Republicans were concerned that Becker would come to the NLRB direct from a union, and that as a result he would be unable to administer labor law fairly.
“Mr. Craig Becker is the first person--I repeat, the first person--nominated for a term on the National Labor Relations Board who comes directly from a labor organization,” said John McCain, R-Ariz. “Now, it is one thing to come from private law practice representing employers or unions as clients under the circumstances. It is quite another to come to the Board directly from being an officer and associate general counsel of a labor organization with, as mentioned, substantial interests in multiple matters pending or that will be pending before the Board.”
Democrats argued that Becker is eminently qualified and should be confirmed to the post.
“Throughout this process, Mr. Becker has stated his belief that Congress creates labor laws, not the NLRB. I guess there is a parallel to this whole argument about judicial activism, where the argument is being made on the Republican side that if Mr. Becker is brought to the National Labor Relations Board, he is going to make the law. He said, clearly, he will not, his job is to basically interpret the law as written and to implement the law as Congress has passed it. He said, repeatedly, if confirmed, he will apply the law fairly and impartially. Confirming Craig Becker will allow the NLRB to move forward with its congressionally mandated duties, and I am certainly going to support his confirmation,” said Dick Durbin, D-Ill.
Becker was one of dozens of appointments held up by Republicans over various concerns. President Obama, frustrated with lack of progress, threatened to exercise his power to appoint people without requiring them to be confirmed while the Senate is recessed, known as “recess appointments.” Yielding to this threat, Republicans yielded their opposition to several people, including Becker, feeling it was preferable to have a fuller debate and vote.
By a vote of 52-33, the motion to bring debate to a close failed. Though more voted yes than no, this particular type of motion requires 60 votes in order to be considered passed. All but two Democrats present voted to bring debate to a close: Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Ben Nelson of Nebraska. Every Republican present voted against bringing debate to a close. The end result is that the Senate failed to invoke cloture on the nomination of Craig Becker to be a member of the National Labor Relations Board, and debate on his nomination continued.