House-passed legislation temporarily restricting the National Labor Relations Board's authority faces an uncertain future.
The bill—H.R. 1120, sponsored by Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.)—would prevent the NLRB from making decisions requiring a three-member quorum until the legal uncertainty created by a Jan. 25 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is resolved. That ruling held that two of the "recess" appointments made by President Obama in January 2012 were unconstitutional because they were made while the Senate was technically not in recess.
"The president's unprecedented recess appointment scheme has crippled the work of the board," said House Education and Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-Minn.) in a statement. "Roughly 600 decisions are now constitutionally suspect, and that number grows with each new decision." The measure passed the House on April 12 with no Democratic support. In the Senate, the chairman of the labor committee, Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), has said he opposes the bill.
Meanwhile, President Obama has nominated a full complement of individuals to serve. On Feb. 13, he renominated Democrats Richard Griffin Jr. and Sharon Block and, on April 9, nominated current Chairman Mark Gaston Pearce, a Democrat whose term is set to expire in August, as well as Republicans Harry Johnson III, a partner with Washington, D.C.-based Arent Fox LLP, and Philip A. Miscimarra, a partner at Philadelphia-based Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP.
Geoff Burr, Associated Builders and Contractors' vice president of federal affairs, says Pearce has not been a neutral arbiter of labor policy. During Pearce's tenure, "the NLRB majority has pressed forward in its wholesale transformation of American labor policy on behalf of big-labor bosses," Burr says.
But Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, says, "The package includes individuals who have challenged recent actions by the NLRB and who have views on labor-relations matters that we do not agree with. But working people need and deserve a functioning NLRB."