WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama named three members to the National Labor Relations Board on Wednesday, bypassing fierce opposition from Republicans who claim the agency has leaned too far in favor of unions.
The recess appointments came just hours after Obama used a similar move to install former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Agency.
Both moves infuriated GOP leaders, who threatened legal action and warned that Obama was setting a dangerous precedent by ignoring the will of Congress.
Obama appointed Deputy Labor Secretary Sharon Block, union lawyer Richard Griffin, and NLRB counsel Terence Flynn to fill vacancies on the five-member board, giving it a full contingent for the first time in more than a year. Block and Griffin are Democrats, while Flynn is a Republican.
The board, which referees labor-management disputes and oversees union elections, has been a prime target for Republicans and business groups since it filed a controversial lawsuit last year that accused Boeing of illegally retaliating against union members.
That case was dismissed last month after Boeing and the union settled their differences. But Republicans are still incensed over the board's approval last month of sweeping new rules to speed up the union election process, making it easier for unions to gain new members.
Obama's action prevents the board from losing much of its power for the rest of the year. The NLRB is supposed to have five members, but it has operated for months with only three. This week, it is down to just two members, after Democrat Craig Becker completed his term. The agency is not allowed to conduct regular business with only two members.
Senate Republicans had vowed to block any more appointees to prevent the agency from making any further key decisions affecting labor relations. Last month, all 47 Senate Republicans sent Obama a letter warning that bypassing the Senate would set a dangerous precedent.
"The American people deserve to have qualified public servants fighting for them every day — whether it is to enforce new consumer protections or uphold the rights of working Americans," Obama said in a prepared statement.
Labor unions, a bedrock of Democratic political support in this election year, had been pushing the White House to fill the seats.
"We commend the president for exercising his constitutional authority to ensure that crucially important agencies protecting workers' rights and consumers are not shut down by Republican obstructionism," said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.
Obama's announcement of the new NLRB members came in an afternoon press release. By contrast, Obama trumpeted his appointment of Cordray earlier in the day at a speech in Ohio, where he chastised Congress for standing in the way of consumer protection.
Block is deputy secretary for congressional affairs at the Labor Department. Griffin is currently the general counsel for the International Union of Operating Engineers. Flynn serves as chief counsel to the NLRB's other Republican member Brian Hayes.
Flynn's nomination has been pending for nearly a year, but Block and Griffin were just nominated in December.
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