02.04.10

Statement of Michael B. Enzi - Executive Session on Nominations

Let me begin by thanking Chairman Harkin for holding a confirmation hearing this past Tuesday for Mr. Craig Becker, who is nominated to serve as a Member of the National Labor Relations Board. There were a number of concerns raised by Members of this Committee and I think it was important to hear additional testimony from Mr. Becker regarding these issues.  However, I am troubled that the Majority scheduled a vote on Mr. Becker without adhering to the regular order of the Committee. Typically, there is a 10-day period following a hearing to review what we’ve learned, and to ask written follow-up questions. Serious concerns have been raised by HELP Committee members and the employer community regarding Mr. Becker’s writings – particularly the potential for radical changes in labor laws he has advocated, and argued can be implemented, without Congressional authorization. Mr. Becker’s answers to written questions that Senators submitted previously on these views are vague, and sometimes non-responsive due to his attorney relationship with both SEIU and the AFL-CIO. I am told the hearing on Tuesday did not clear up these concerns. This has left open the real possibility that Mr. Becker would reinterpret the National Labor Relations Act to limit the ability of employers to participate in the process, or tilt the playing field unfairly in the direction of labor union leaders. 

Some will argue that Senators on this Committee should accept Mr. Becker’s vague assurance that he would follow precedent and the law, and that he respects the legal rights of employers and individual union members.  But to be fair, let’s look at the current situation at the National Mediation Board (NMB). 

Last year this HELP Committee confirmed 2 nominees to the NMB. Some members, including me, specifically asked each of them about their position on changing the way a majority in a unionization election is measured.  In response, both of these nominees testified that they had no pre-conceived agenda to alter rules that have been in place for 75 years.  Yet, practically before the ink had dried on their confirmations, these two nominees began pushing through a regulation that is a wholesale reversal of those rules to tilt the playing field to the benefit of labor unions.  In their haste, the Democratic NMB members thoroughly disregarded the rights of the single minority member.  The Minority Member was given no notice that an effort to initiate rulemaking was underway and, instead, was given one and a half hours to review the final rule proposal to determine if she would support it.  They even tried to stop her from publishing a dissent to the proposal.  There are strong indications that the two recently confirmed National Mediation Board Members were not forthright with this committee, and it is clear that they showed no respect for the rights of the NMB minority or regulatory process.  Now, this is a different board and a different nominee.  And I certainly do not want to impute the actions of others onto Mr. Becker, but I am putting this committee on notice that we will need to press for greater oversight in the upcoming year to make certain that promises made in testimony by nominees before this Committee are kept when nominees take office.

Mr. Chairman, independent boards such as the National Labor Relations Board are entrusted with a great deal of autonomy.  The decisions they hand down and regulations they enforce control a very significant portion of our economy, and our nation’s jobs.  In the Senate, it is our responsibility to determine if these nominees can be entrusted with this power, or if they would compromise fairness to grant favors to special interest groups or former employers. 

I am also concerned that Mr. Becker’s ethics disclosure paperwork has not been updated with the Office of Government Ethics since July 2009 as far as I am aware.  The career professionals at the Office of Government Ethics and the National Labor Relations Board should determine whether his financial interests have changed since then.  His paperwork also needs further review to determine if he has worked on additional matters since last April that could subject him to added recusals, if confirmed.  The Administration has pledged support for transparency and accountability, and I, therefore, question their decision to rush this nominee through without a proper ethics review.

I also want to register my concern with hastily moving controversial nominees before the seating of Senator-Elect Scott Brown.  Earlier this week, the Senate invoked cloture on Patricia Smith, by a vote of 60-32 – on a nominee who was voted out of committee on a straight party line vote. And following this Executive Session, the full Senate will vote on her confirmation.  I have been supportive of nearly all of the nominees who have come before this Committee, and I have worked hard with the Chairman to swiftly confirm these nominees and put them in office.  But the Senate has an important responsibility of advice and consent. To regain the trust of the American people, we should refrain from jamming through nominees along party lines. Instead, I urge this Administration to find qualified nominees who will enjoy broad support in the Senate and I have offered my commitment to assist with swift confirmation. 

For all of the reasons stated above, I will oppose Mr. Becker’s nomination to serve as a Member of the National Relations Board, and urge my colleagues to do the same.

I understand we will also be considering three other nominees during this Executive Session.  They are Cynthia Attwood, to be a Member of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission; Kathleen Tighe, to be Inspector General for the Department of Education; and Irvin Mayfield, to be a member of the National Council on the Arts. All three of these nominees before us today have successfully completed the Committee’s normal vetting process and all the necessary paperwork, including any Questions for the Record.  I support reporting these nominees favorably from the Committee and urge my colleagues to do the same.  

Thank you.

Press Contact

Craig Orfield (202) 224-6770