President Barack Obama will nominate Sharon Block to the National Labor Relations Board, the White House said, potentially reigniting a fight with Republicans over the panel’s composition.
Block, a former deputy secretary at the Labor Department and aide to the late Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, previously was nominated by Obama to serve on the board, a federal body that adjudicates disputes between companies and employees.
Block drew opposition from Republicans, leading Obama to appoint her to the board in January 2012 under a provision of the U.S. Constitution that permits temporary appointments to be made when the Senate is out of session.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last month that in this case the president exceeded his authority, given that the Senate was holding brief “pro forma” sessions every few days. The high court upheld an appeals court decision issued last year.
Richard Griffin, who is now the NLRB’s general counsel, also was appointed to the board during the recess. Both were later pulled by the administration in favor of other nominees who were eventually approved by the Senate.
The term of Nancy Schiffer, who was sworn in last year, expires in December.
Senator Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat and chairman of the committee that oversees labor issues, said Block’s knowledge of U.S. labor law was unparalleled.
“It is a testament to her commitment to public service that Ms. Block has again agreed to answer the call to fulfill this important public duty,” Harkin said in a statement. He said the committee would give Block’s nomination “prompt consideration.”
The National Right to Work Foundation, which says it was formed to fight efforts to pressure workers to join labor groups, criticized the nomination, in a statement calling Block a “pro-forced unionism radical.”
“Instead of being considered to serve on the NLRB, Block should be made to pay back the money she collected at taxpayer expense while illegally serving in violation of the Constitution,” Patrick Semmens, a vice president at the group, said in the statement.
Block served on the board from January 2012 to August 2013, according to the NLRB website. The administration said in a statement yesterday that the president would nominate her.
Block probably will have an easier confirmation in the Senate. Under rules the chamber adopted last year to break a deadlock over Obama’s selections, the minority party no longer can block nominations by requiring 60 votes in the 100-member Senate to advance the confirmation process. Democrats control the chamber with 55 votes.
The recess appointments let the NLRB keep operating in 2012, although its decisions may be revisited because of court decisions invalidating the Obama’s action. There is less at stake with Block’s nomination, because the board will have at least four members, enough to decide cases, said Steven Bernstein, a Tampa, Florida-based labor attorney at Fisher & Phillips LLP who represents management.
“I would anticipate some amount of token opposition, not much more than that,” Bernstein said.