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October 4, 2015

Senate Recesses With Contentious NLRB Vote Looming

Any goodwill generated in the deal to reopen the government and raise the debt limit might prove fleeting, with an appointment tied to the summer fight over the “nuclear option” on the floor.

One of the Senate’s first items of business after an expected recess until Oct. 28 will be a procedural test vote on what could be one of the most contentious nominees on the Senate calendar, for reasons that have little to do with qualifications for the job.

Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., moved to limit debate late Wednesday on the nomination of Richard F. Griffin Jr. to be general counsel at the National Labor Relations Board.

If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Griffin had been a member of the NLRB subject to a recess appointment with disputed constitutionality.

Multiple federal appeals courts have ruled that President Barack Obama’s NLRB recess appointments, including the one involving Griffin, were not valid. The Supreme Court has agreed to review the question.

When the Senate in July averted a standoff over the “nuclear option” rules change for executive branch nominees, one of the conditions imposed by the GOP was that Griffin and fellow recess appointee Sharon Block would not be confirmed. Obama was allowed to submit replacement nominees who were quickly confirmed.

It wasn’t immediately clear how that standoff would affect the next confirmation battle involving Griffin, however.

When the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions panel reported the Griffin nomination for the general counsel job last month, ranking member Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., criticized Griffin’s record in support of unions.

“Mr. Griffin has the legal credentials but his background as a union advocate and his work as general counsel for one of the major unions doesn’t do anything to help me believe that he will improve the situation at the NLRB,” Alexander said. “I can count, so I know that the Democratic majority will report Mr. Griffin’s name to the floor and that he will have an up or down vote and will be confirmed, but I’m going to vote no.”

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