The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has had a quorum since March of 2010 when President Obama made two recess appointments, Mark Pearce and Craig Becker, to fill the empty Democratic seats on the board. The president’s appointments had previously been blocked from receiving a vote by Senate Republicans. Two of the appointments to the board–Republican Brian Hayes and Democrat Mark Pearce–were confirmed to the board in June.
The NLRB could lose its current quorum because the Republicans seem poised to block the president from making any additional recess appointments. In order to issue a ruling on a case, there must be a quorum of three members. Peter Schaumber, a Republican member of the board, left when his term expired in June. Then, the previous chair of the NLRB, Wilma Liebman, left the board when her term ended in August 2011, which brought the number of members on the board down to three. The board will be down to only two members by the end of the year when the recess appointment for Craig Becker expires. Republicans are blocking recess appointments to the NLRB because the board has been functioning properly, making sure that workers’ rights are respected in the workplace, that union elections are conducted fairly and that the board’s rulings are enforced.
To prevent the president from making more recess appointments to the board, the House of Representatives has been convening very brief por forma sessions during its recesses, a technical move under existing rules that prevents the Senate from going into a full, actual recesses, a technical move under existing rules that prevents the Senate from going into a full, actual recess of its own. These are brief meetings of the House, sometimes lasting only seconds, where no business is conducted. And under the rules, neither chamber of Congress can be adjourned for more than three consecutive days without the consent of the other chamber.
Without new appointments to the NLRB, important decisions affecting workers will have to be put on hold.