House Votes to Shutter Labor Board Hobbled by Obama Recess Picks

The U.S. House passed Republican-backed legislation that would shut the federal agency that weighs disputes over labor law.

By a 219-209 vote, the House approved the measure that would freeze the work of the National Labor Relations Board until the Senate confirms all five members. Supporters said shutting the board is justified following a January ruling by a three-judge appeals court that three of President Barack Obama’s appointments to the board without Senate confirmation were “constitutionally invalid.”

“No one -- employer, worker or union -- can rely on a board decision today,” Representative John Kline, a Minnesota Republican and head of the committee with oversight for labor policy, said today during debate. Obama’s advisers would recommend the president veto the bill if it passes Congress, the Office of Management and Budget said on April 10.

The Obama administration has appealed the January decision in a case brought by soft-drink bottler Noel Canning Corp. to the Supreme Court. Employers, citing the ruling, have appealed about 100 board rulings. Hundreds of orders, decisions and routine actions by the board are subject to challenge.

“The majority is using this misguided bill in a coordinated attack on the National Labor Relations Board, and on America workers,” said Representative Rush Holt, Democrat from New Jersey.

Recess Appointments

Three 2012 appointees were ruled invalid because Obama had acted when the Senate wasn’t in recess, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington ruled Jan. 25. To prevent Obama from making so-called recess appointments, House and Senate Republicans refused to call a recess. The Senate then held pro-forma sessions every few days that lasted less than 2 minutes.

None of Obama’s nominations were considered by the Senate, said Representative Rob Andrews, a New Jersey Democrat.

The House bill would require the NLRB to “cease all activity that requires a quorum of the members of the Board” and block it from implementing or enforcing any decision taken since Jan. 4, 2012, when Obama made the recess appointments. The restrictions would end once the board has a quorum of members confirmed by the Senate, the Supreme Court rules on the recess appointments, or until the 113th Congress adjourns, which could be as late as early January 2015.

The board currently has three members, all Democrats. Obama has renominated the sitting members, plus two Republicans.

“Allowing the board to continue to issue decisions with this cloud over its authority is inconsistent with the principles of good government and undermines the rule of law,” Fred Wszolek, spokesman for the Workforce Fairness Institute, a business group that focuses on labor issues, said in a statement.

The bill is H.R. 1120.

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