President Barack Obama on Wednesday announced plans to nominate two Democrats to the National Labor Relations Board, despite a Republican threat to block any appointments to the agency.
The president intends to nominate Sharon Block, deputy secretary for congressional affairs at the Labor Department, and Richard Griffin, currently the general counsel for the International Union of Operating Engineers, to fill two vacancies on the board.
The move comes just days after the board's top lawyer dropped a controversial lawsuit that charged Boeing with illegally retaliating against union members in Washington state by opening a new plant in South Carolina. That case _ along with other union-friendly decisions _ has made the board a target of Republicans who contend it has acted too favorably toward unions.
Obama's nominees would have to be confirmed by the Senate, but Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said last week he would block Obama from making any further appointments to the board. The agency usually has five members but has operated for months with three. It will lose another member by the end of the year, leaving it without enough members to conduct business.
Graham has said his goal is to keep the NLRB from making any more key decisions during the rest of Obama's time in office. He and other Senate Republicans have blocked other Obama appointees, most recently Ohio attorney general Richard Cordray, whom Obama nominated to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Last week, Obama held out the possibility of bypassing the Senate to install Cordray when Congress is in recess.
Obama's attempt to fill the NLRB posts is fueling speculation that the board members could be included with Cordray in a group of recess appointments. Union officials have been pushing the White House to keep at least three members on the board so it can function next year.
But it remains unclear whether Obama will have a chance to make any recess appointments. For months, House Republicans have convened brief, pro forma sessions whenever Congress is away to prevent the Senate from going into a full recess. GOP lawmakers have pledged to continue the tactic.