Yesterday, the United States Senate voted 54-40 to confirm President Obama’s nomination of Lauren McGarity McFerran to the National Labor Relations Board. McFerran’s nomination to the Board came before the full Senate after the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee approved her appointment along party lines.
Labor watchers were not surprised that McFerran’s nomination met with little resistance from the Senate. As the reader may recall, Senate Democrats exercised the “nuclear option” in the summer of 2013, allowing Presidential nominations to be confirmed by an up-or-down vote as opposed to the traditional two-thirds approval.
Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) lauded McFerran during remarks on the Senate floor yesterday, stating that she would serve with “fairness and distinction.”
“[McFerran] has a deep knowledge of labor law; she is a [strongly qualified] lawyer,” Harkin said.
Even though Senator Harkin and other Democrats were full of praise for McFerran, she was still not President Obama’s first choice nominee. President Obama had nominated former member Sharon Block to replace member Nancy Schiffer when her term expires at the end of the year, but the President had to withdraw Block’s nomination when it became politically untenable. Block was one of the President’s recess appointments that were held to be unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court last June.
McFerran’s confirmation likely means that Democrats and big labor can breathe a sigh of relief. Prior to her confirmation to the Board, McFerran served as labor counsel to both Senator Harkin and the late Senator Edward “Ted” Kennedy. While McFerran did note during her nomination hearing back in November that she would keep a “very open mind” regarding labor issues, labor watchers expect her to regularly side with the Board’s Democratic block. And with the Board’s pro-labor agenda as aggressive as ever, McFerran’s confirmation could swing the Board’s policies even further to the left.