We got tons of e-mail this weekend when Barack Obama made 15 recess appointments once Congress left town, including the controversial Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board. This move should have surprised no one. Even though Democrats blasted George Bush for his recess appointments, especially John Bolton’s appointment as UN Ambassador, Obama’s need to kiss and make up to the unions made this entirely predictable.
Mark Tapscott gives us a good background on Becker himself and why Obama made the move:
Craig Becker is one radical dude. He claims management should be barred from National Labor Relations Board hearings on labor-management disputes, and he is a strong advocate of Card Check, the union bosses’ proposal to do away with secret ballots in workplace representation elections. None of this should come as a surprise, as Becker is the former associate general counsel for the radical Service Employees International Union and has represented the AFL-CIO in court. The son of a University of Iowa professor, he’s also a former law professor at Georgetown and the University of California, Los Angeles. In other words, he’s a product of two of the most out-of-touch milieus in American society. Only 7 percent of all private sector jobs are now represented by the unions Becker represents, and it is all but impossible to find a more uniformly left-wing group than the typical American college faculty.
So why is President Obama using his power of recess appointments — the right of a president to put somebody in an executive branch position until the next Congress convenes, which in the present case will be January 2011 — to install Becker as the deciding vote on the NLRB? The answer to that question, of course, starts with what the five-member NLRB does, which is oversee the administration of the National Labor Relations Act, the basic rule book for labor-management relations since it was signed by FDR in 1935. There is also the fact that last month Becker’s nomination fell eight votes short of the 60 needed to defeat a threatened Republican filibuster in the Senate, which left a recess appointment as the only way Obama could get his man on the NLRB.
Expect Becker to come on like a man possessed once he is ensconced at the NLRB because nobody expects the next Congress to be any more receptive to his appointment than the current one. But nine months of Becker on the NLRB is better than nothing, especially because the Senate has been markedly unsympathetic to Card Check, despite it being the union bosses’ No. 1 legislative priority.
The NLRB appointment can cause some mischief, but won’t get the unions what they really want — Card Check. Furthermore, Tapscott’s entirely correct that the next Senate won’t be any more receptive to Becker than this one, and likely a lot less so. In fact, the Senate usually declines to confirm recess appointments once they come back into session, preferring to rebuke the executive for their high-handedness instead.
The Becker appointment, coming over the objections of both Republicans and Democrats (which is why Harry Reid couldn’t get Becker confirmed even with 60 Democrats), gives the GOP yet another piece of evidence of Obama’s radicalism. The President sold himself as a post-partisan moderate in 2008, but his appointments of people like Van Jones and Craig Becker give evidence that Obama is at his heart a radical Leftist with better PR than most. In 2010, those kinds of decisions will make a great deal of difference in Senate races, where Republicans can argue to replace Democratic incumbents in order to check Obama’s radical appointments.
In the meantime, though, Presidents retain the power to make recess appointments, and the minority doesn’t have the option of keeping the Senate in session indefinitely to prevent it. By their very nature, recess appointments are provocative and unpopular; otherwise, there wouldn’t be a need to use that process on those nominees. The best prevention for radical choices like Craig Becker is to have someone other than Barack Obama in the White House, and enough Republicans in the Senate to keep the chamber in session. Elections have consequences … and we usually only learn that when experiencing the unpleasant ones.