President Bush on March 18 designated the National Labor Relations Board's sole Republican member, Peter C. Schaumber, to be the board's chairman.

Since last December, the five-member NLRB has been down to just two members: Schaumber, who has been on the board since December 2002, except for a short break; and Democrat Wilma B. Liebman, a board member since November 1997.

The two-person board has handed down rulings this year, but because of the vacancies, it is not expected to decide major cases, including some that pertain to construction.

Former Chairman Robert J. Battista's term expired Dec. 16. Members Peter N. Kirsanow and Dennis P. Walsh served since early 2006 under recess appointments, but those appointments ended Dec. 31. Battista and Kirsanow are Republicans; Walsh is a Democrat.

Senate Democrats have blocked Bush nominees to a variety of federal positions, even taking the unusual step of holding periodic pro forma sessions while the Senate was in recess, to prevent the President from making further recess appointments.

Bush on Jan. 25 nominated Battista, Walsh and Gerald Morales, a partner with the Arizona-based firm Snell  & Wilmer LLP,  to five-year NLRB terms. The President also withdrew Kirsanow's nomination.

Democrats recently eased their stance on nominees, and on March 13 the Senate confirmed 40 nominees, including 34 Republicans, to various posts.

None of the NLRB nominees was approved, however.

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Democrats planned to continue to hold pro forma sessions over the spring recess to block further recess appointments. Congress returns March 31. Reid added, "I am hopeful that we will continue to make progress on nominations in April."

But Bush's NLRB Republican nominees may be stalled for a while longer.

Organized labor has been unhappy with NLRB decisions made when the board was at full strength last year. Senate Chairman Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), one of the unions' leading congressional allies, said in January, "It's unbelievable that President Bush would re-nominate Mr. Battista to the board, after he led the most anti-worker, anti-labor, anti-union board in its history....With these nominations, the administration has again demonstrated its hostility to fairness  and justice in the workplace."

Battista is a former partner at the Detroit-based firm Butzel Long. Walsh has had three stints as a NLRB member, and also worked in various other positions there.