Yesterday, the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP) approved the nomination of Sharon Block to the National Labor Relations Board.  Ms. Block is a former Board member whose recess appointment caused a great deal of controversy and was eventually found to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.  The HELP Committee split primarily on party lines, with 13 members approving her nomination and 9 members voting against it. 

While Republicans complained that Ms. Block had showed a “lack of respect” for the Constitution by continuing to serve in her post until the Supreme Court weighed in, Democrats took a more favorable view of her nomination.

“I continue to believe that Ms. Block is an exceptionally talented and dedicated public servant and that we’d be hard- pressed to find a more qualified nominee to serve on the National Labor Relations Board,” HELP Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said at the beginning of Wednesday’s executive session.

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who just yesterday introduced a bill designed to reign in the Board’s powers, offered a less flattering portrayal of Ms. Block:

“Ms. Block showed a troubling lack of respect for the Constitution, the separation of powers and the Senate’s constitutional role of advice and consent by continuing to serve on the board and participate in hundreds of decisions after the D.C. Circuit and then the Fourth Circuit found her appointment unconstitutional,” Alexander said. “In those decisions where she did participate, she aligned herself with a disturbing trend of the board becoming more of an advocate than an umpire.”

Despite clear Republican opposition, labor watchers expect the full Senate to confirm Ms. Block’s nomination.  With last year’s exercise of the “nuclear option” allowing the Senate to make up or down votes on presidential appointments, it is highly unlikely that any Senators could invoke procedural measures to slow the vote down.  Stay tuned to @LRToday, where we will be following this issue to its conclusion.