The recent approval by the Senate of David Hamilton to the U.S. Court of Appeals focused attention on the fact that President Obama has made only 27 appointments to fill approximately 100 vacancies on the federal bench, out of which only ten (including Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court) have been confirmed.
Among non-judicial presidential appointments - cabinet departments, agencies, commissions and the like - there are currently at least 500 positions to fill.
While many of these are moving through the system, some key appointments are being stalled in the Senate by Republicans using a parliamentary provision allowing one member to put a “hold” on a nominee. A filibuster-ending cloture vote could be required to bring that nomination to the floor.
Of particular interest is an appointment to the National Labor Relations Board, an independent federal agency which decides important and sometimes precedent-setting cases involving union organizing, representation and bargaining.
Obama’s choice of Craig Becker - a former associate council to SEIU and the AFL-CIO - has aroused conservatives, who accuse Becker of being a “forced unionism extremist” with an agenda to impose labor law reform.
It’s uncertain how and when Democrats will try to end the “hold” Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) has placed on the Becker nomination.
Even without Becker, Democratic appointees will soon control the NLRB. The question is whether the Obama Administration and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are willing to fight to save this pro-union appointment.
It’s very unlikely that the NLRB - with or without Becker - would attempt to exert regulatory authority to institute significant labor law reform. The Labor Movement’s top legislative priority, making union organizing easier through “card check” elections, does not have the 60 vote super-majority in the Senate to pass.