By RAJU CHEBIUM
Gannett Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON -- House appropriators want to cut funding for the National Labor Relations Board following a dispute involving Boeing, but they aren't yet ready to eliminate the agency, as a South Carolina congressman has proposed.
The House Appropriations Committee introduced legislation Thursday that would cut the board's budget by 17 percent in fiscal 2012.
That falls short of Rep. Trey Gowdy's proposal to eliminate all funding for the board.
Gowdy, a Republican from Spartanburg, said he will introduce his measure on the House floor as an amendment to the committee's spending bill.
"The fight is just now beginning," Gowdy said. "I am not going to be able to support an appropriations bill that continues a quasi law enforcement agency that I have no confidence in."
The labor board became a target of GOP attacks after filing a complaint saying Boeing was retaliating for past strikes by workers in Washington state when it decided to locate a second assembly line for its 787 Dreamliner airplane in South Carolina, a right-to-work state, instead of Washington.
Gowdy, who is not a member of the Appropriations Committee, said he didn't try to persuade committee members to kill off the labor board as they were drafting the spending bill.
He said House leaders prefer that members work to amend appropriations bills during floor votes.
Earlier this month, Gowdy introduced standalone legislation to eliminate the labor board, calling it a tool of worker unions. That measure hasn't advanced. It has 13 co-sponsors, including Reps. Mick Mulvaney, R-Lancaster County, and Joe Wilson, R-West Columbia.
House Republicans weren't able to kill off the NLRB because of political pressure from worried workers, said Frank Larkin, spokesman for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, the union that initiated the Boeing complaint by approaching the labor board last year.
The NLRB "should not be dissolved on a lobbyist's whim or for the benefit of a single corporation," he said.
Gowdy's bill, Larkin said, "is a proposal by a freshman congressman at the behest of the House leadership, who see this as a potent political issue."
The labor board declined comment.
The House Appropriations Committee has proposed giving the labor board $234 million in fiscal 2012, $49 million less than the amount proposed by the Senate Appropriations Committee.
The House proposal also would strike down some NLRB actions and limit its authority. It doesn't address the labor board's complaint against Boeing.
The labor board wants a judge to order Boeing to move the assembly line back to the Pacific Northwest -- an unlikely outcome given that the $750 million North Charleston plant is up and running.
Boeing said it chose South Carolina for the assembly line for business reasons, not as payback for the strikes in heavily unionized Washington state.
In mid-September, the House passed legislation by Rep. Tim Scott, R-North Charleston, to block the labor board from trying to get companies to move operations for any reason.
The measure was co-sponsored by 18 others, including South Carolina GOP Reps. Joe Wilson, Trey Gowdy, Mick Mulvaney and Jeff Duncan. It passed along mostly partisan lines.
It's unlikely the Senate, controlled by Democrats, will consider the measure, although Scott said Democratic support is building.
Earlier this month, the Senate Appropriations Committee deadlocked 15-15 on a proposal by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., that mirrored Scott's bill. One Democrat, Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor, sided with Graham.