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Latest News - November 2014

November 12, 2014
White House pulls controversial NLRB pick
Source: Politico Magazine

In his first post-midterms shift on nominations, President Barack Obama is withdrawing Sharon Block’s nomination for the National Labor Relations Board, sources tell POLITICO.

Obama on Wednesday will announce instead that he’ll nominate Lauren McFerran, chief labor counsel for the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP).

The move, coming as Congress returned to Washington for its lame duck session following the Republican romp last week, is not part of any larger deal on nominees, the White House said, but centered purely on Republican opposition to Block because she was a recess appointment. She’s been on the board since January 2012.

“We’re in discussions about Senate leaders all the time,” a White House aide said. “We’re not going to get into specifics about the discussions.”

The decision to pull Block will come as a huge disappointment to labor and many liberal supporters.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), the retiring and outgoing chair of the HELP Committee, called the decision on Block “truly disappointing.”

Most observers expected that the lame duck session was Obama’s last chance to get appointments he wanted onto the NLRB, which is actively resisted by the Republicans who’ll soon be in the majority. But Block’s nomination had been a source of major controversy and partisan resistance, and the decision appears to have been made to focus on the hundreds of other still pending nominations instead.

According to a source familiar with the process, Block received the call last week telling her that her nomination was going to be pulled, which was followed by calls to leaders on the Hill.

In pulling Block, a White House spokesperson called her “a highly qualified nominee,” but laid the blame on the GOP.

“Sharon Block is a highly qualified nominee who has spent her career fighting to help American workers earn fair wages, work in a safe environments, and exercise their rights, and the president could not be prouder to have her on our team,” a White House spokesperson said in a statement. “She has served as a valued member of the National Labor Relations Board as well as an invaluable part of Secretary Perez’s team at the Department of Labor. Sharon has a deep appreciation and respect for the National Labor Relations Board and the role it has played in protecting the rights of workers for almost 80 years. Unfortunately, Senate Republicans continue to object to her confirmation due to their protest of the president’s recess appointments to the NLRB.”

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and 39 other senators signed a letter in January asking Block and Richard Griffin Jr. to withdraw because they were recess appointments.

Harkin said on the Block news, his “only consolation is the president’s choice of Lauren McFerran,” calling her “an incredibly talented lawyer with deep knowledge and strong character who will be a great asset to the Board.”



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