Obama nominates Schiffer, Hirozawa to labor board

AP News
Posted: Jul 16, 2013 6:44 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama picked two veteran labor lawyers Tuesday to serve on the National Labor Relations Board as part of an agreement to win confirmation for several of his stalled appointees.

Obama nominated Nancy Schiffer, who retired last year as an associate general counsel at the AFL-CIO, and Kent Hirozawa, the chief counsel to the NLRB's chairman.

The two would replace Richard Griffin and Sharon Block, whom Obama installed as recess appointments that bypassed the Senate. The appointments have been ruled invalid by an appeals court and the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case.

Democratic lawmakers are hoping the two can win Senate confirmation by the end of next week, an extraordinary turnaround time for a vetting process that usually takes months. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said there would be a hearing for the two next Tuesday, with a committee vote the following day. The full Senate would begin taking up the nominees July 25, he said.

The move is part of a broader deal that averts a threat by Senate Democrats to change historic rules to make confirmation easier for some nominees. If they are confirmed — along with Mark Pearce, who has been nominated for a new term as NLRB chairman — it would prevent the virtual shutdown of the agency because of a lack of confirmed board members to rule on collective bargaining disputes between unions and companies.

Obama angered Republicans when he bypassed the Senate last year to install Griffin and Block. Republicans insisted the recess appointments were tainted and refused to consider them for permanent appointments. Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, top Republican on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said the agreement makes clear that "this president, or any president, cannot thumb his nose at the Senate's constitutional role in our system of checks and balances."

But the new nominees are seen to be just as union-friendly in their outlook, and won quick praise from the powerful Service Employees International Union and other labor leaders eager to have a fully functioning board.

Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, slammed Republicans for agreeing to the deal and said the new nominees would continue to pursue the "radical agenda" of labor unions on the board.