Senator Lindsey Graham (image by Win McNamee/Getty)
By Mary Orndorff Troyan, Gannett Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - Sen. Lindsey Graham will likely vote to confirm President Barack Obama's two new nominees to a federal labor board as part of a deal to avoid a historic change in Senate rules, the South Carolina senator said Tuesday.
Obama withdrew two of his controversial nominees to the National Labor Relations Board under the compromise between Senate Republicans and Democrats that preserves the powers of the minority party. The deal, which includes quick confirmation votes of other long-stalled nominees, means Obama is changing out two of his picks for the federal agency that enforces labor laws around the country.
"If he brings two new nominees forward who are appointed in a lawful process, I will allow him to fill out the NLRB," Graham said in an interview at the Capitol.
The Seneca Republican is a key figure on the issue because he was critical when the NLRB accused the Boeing Co. of locating a new plant in South Carolina in retaliation against union workers at its facility in the state of Washington. Graham said he wanted to use the Senate confirmation process for the two original nominees to protest the agency's treatment of Boeing, but Obama bypassed the fight by appointing them in January 2012 while the Senate was in recess.
The appointments were declared invalid by a court, and the case is pending with the U.S. Supreme Court.
"I'm a supporter of the idea that elections have consequences and that the president should have his team in place, but he also has to suffer the consequences of what his team does," Graham said.
By Tuesday afternoon, officials said Obama intends to nominate Nancy Schiffer, a former top lawyer for the AFL-CIO labor federation, and Kent Hirozawa, counsel to NLRB Chairman Mark Pearce, the Associated Press reported.
Although senators are expected to review the records of the new nominees, the White House and Senate leadership were expecting them to be confirmed quickly and without controversy, probably by next week.
"I think we're going to get two people that can be confirmed through a constitutionally sound appointment process," Graham said.
Labor groups were pleased that the Senate deal means the NLRB would have a complete five-member board in place for the first time in years, but they were critical that Democrats bargained away Obama's first two picks.
"Republicans just wanted to show they can get their pound of flesh," said Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America.