Online today, NPR carries a piece from the New Republic’s John B. Judis entitled "Obama’s Hinge Moment." It is a partisan piece, but generally accurate in the facts the author includes. His argument: President Obama should recess appoint Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board to embolden labor unions. In describing the prolonged history of Mr. Becker’s stalled nomination, Mr. Judis reports:
In his responses [to HELP Committee questions], Becker dealt satisfactorily with the principal charge against him — that he would use the NLRB to administratively enact the Employee Free Choice Act. (The measure, which labor has been unable to get through Congress, would make it easier for unions to organize workplaces.) Becker said explicitly that he would not.
Yet, Mr. Judis notes that only 52 Senators voted to invoke cloture, failing to end a filibuster on confirmation of Mr. Becker’s nomination; and, during the February Congressional Recess, President Obama declined to make recess appointments. His suggestion:
The administration has another chance to act during the Easter recess from March 29 to April 11. Jon Hiatt, chief of staff to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, says his union has a "strong belief" that Obama will act then. But other labor officials, who didn’t want to speak for attribution, are far less certain of the outcome. Obama’s failure to make the recess appointment in February has only added to their unhappiness with the administration, which began when Obama endorsed an excise tax on the generous health insurance plans that unions have won for their members — after he had pledged during the campaign to oppose such a tax and attacked McCain for favoring one. Trumka has told several people the story of how, when he went to the White House to discuss the health care bill, the president told him that, if he was not willing to accept the excise tax, there could be no discussion. Says one person who has worked closely with the AFL-CIO and its unions, "People are starting to think it is not just Rahm Emanuel."
At the end of this month, Obama will have a chance to prove these critics wrong. It would certainly be the politically smart thing to do. Labor remains essential to the Democratic coalition, and, given that Obama cannot offer unions what they really want — the Employee Free Choice Act — he can at least mollify them with this. More than a shrewd political move, however, filling the vacancies on the NLRB is the right thing to do. It is a small agency but an important one. And, as long as it remains crippled, one of the core philosophical commitments of the Democratic Party — the idea that workers ought to have some counterweight to the overwhelming power of big business — goes unfulfilled.
As indicated in the piece, the next Congressional Recess begins March 29, 2010.
(Hat tip: ShopFloor.org)