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Senate (finally) confirms labor relations board

Tuesday's five confirmation votes resolve a month-long standoff over the National Labor Relations Board.
/ Source: MSNBC TV

Tuesday's five confirmation votes resolve a month-long standoff over the National Labor Relations Board.

Nancy Jean Schiffer smiles at a confirmation hearing for her posting on the National Labor Relations Board while before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 23, 2013. (Photo by Larry Downing/Reuters)

After months of political wrangling and legal uncertainty, the National Labor Relations Board will soon be back in business. On Tuesday, the Senate voted to confirm four new members of the five-person NLRB and re-confirm current chairman Mark Gaston Pearce.

“Every day, the NLRB is focused on the concerns of working Americans, from eliminating unfair labor practices to upholding the right of employees to join a union and bargain collectively with their employers,” said President Obama in a statement. “I applaud the Senate for putting in place a full board and look forward to working together on other steps we can take to grow our economy.”

The NLRB requires a quorum of at least three people in order to issue official decisions. In January 2012, in an attempt to reach a quorum and circumvent Senate obstructionism, the president appointed two of his nominees to the board via recess appointment. But in January of this year, the D.C. circuit court declared his recess appointments unconstitutional. The NLRB contested the ruling and vowed to continue issuing decisions, leaving the legal valence of those decisions in limbo.

But now that all five board members have been formally confirmed by the Senate, no one is contesting the NLRB’s legal right to issue rulings. The confirmations were the result of a deal struck by the two parties’ leadership earlier this month in order to avoid a showdown over the filibuster. Per the terms of the deal, two of the recently confirmed board members will replace those who had been placed through recess appointments. The two replacement board members were hand-picked by organized labor, which applauded the confirmation votes.

“With today’s vote, our country has qualified public servants on duty to defend America’s workers, businesses, and families,” said AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka in a statement. “We congratulate all of the nominees and look forward to having a functioning NLRB that will fairly and impartially oversee the workplace rights of millions of Americans.”