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Statement of Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) at the Help Committee Executive Session on Pending Nominations

As Prepared For Delivery

“We are here today to take up the nomination of Craig Becker for the National Labor Relations Board.  This is the second time the Committee has taken up this nomination, and the second time that I am proud to support it.

“While I ordinarily would love to go on at length about the accomplishments of a native Iowan, I have detailed Mr. Becker’s impeccable credentials several times before, and I don’t think there is any question that he is a very well-qualified nominee.

“Mr. Becker is one of the preeminent labor lawyers in the country with decades of experience and a deep knowledge of the law. He has worked as both a private lawyer and a law professor, earning the respect of his colleagues in the bar and his colleagues in the academy. 

“This Committee has received several letters of recommendation from management-side attorneys – people who litigated against Becker as adversaries – praising his virtues and his potential as a Board member.  As one attorney said: ‘Based on my many experiences, I believe that Mr. Becker's integrity is exceptional, as is his knowledge of labor law, and he will be fair, hard-working, and an asset to the National Labor Relations Board.’  I will be including all of these letters in the record of today’s proceedings. 

“So there is no question about Mr. Becker’s qualifications or his fitness to hold this office.  Yet his nomination has been delayed for months on end, largely because of concerns about his academic writings. 

“Mr. Becker has gone to unprecedented lengths to address these concerns.  The first time his nomination was considered by this Committee last year, he answered more than 280 written questions from Committee Republicans.  He also met with any Senator who expressed interest to personally explain his views. 

“Mr. Becker made perfectly clear that he understands and respects the distinction between his past role as an intellectual advocate, and the role he would play on the Board as an impartial adjudicator. 

“Critics have also questioned whether Mr. Becker would come to the Board with an agenda, and whether he would try to implement the Employee Free Choice Act by administrative fiat.   

“As you are all aware, I’m a supporter of the Employee Free Choice Act, and I hope to see it passed by Congress and signed into law by the President.  But I don’t have any illusions that those important changes can somehow be accomplished administratively, and neither does Craig Becker.

“He has clearly and consistently explained, on numerous occasions, that all three major reforms proposed in EFCA—card check, binding arbitration for first contracts, and treble backpay for illegally fired workers—cannot be accomplished without a change in the statute.  And as we all know, statutes can only be amended by those of us elected to Congress, not Executive Branch appointees. 

“Mr. Becker is on the record about all of this.  We could not have a more extensive record of where Mr. Becker stands.  But now we’ve gotten 144 more written questions that my Republican colleagues have submitted, largely covering similar ground.  That’s more than 420 written questions total.  200 more written questions than were submitted to Justice Sotomayor during her confirmation hearings, and she was seeking a lifetime appointment!  That’s when I start to wonder whether these questions are legitimate inquiries, or just tactics for delay.

“So while Mr. Becker is diligently answering these additional questions, and expects to have more answers available soon, it is time for this Committee to move forward. 

“This government cannot function if we, as Senators, abuse our power to advise and consent to Presidential nominees by using extraordinary procedural tactics to block the nomination of qualified people.  It may all seem like a political game here inside the beltway, but the American people suffer very real harm by this delay.

“The National Labor Relations Act protects workers’ rights.  It ensures that workers can fight for their jobs and speak out for their safety.  It helps ensure they earn a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.  In these troubled economic times, these rights are more important than ever, and that makes the NLRB pretty darned important as well.

“We owe it to hardworking Americans to act quickly on this nomination.  There is no cause for further delay.  I hope that all of my colleagues will join me in supporting Mr. Becker’s nomination so that we can complete this process and let him start his important work.  

“In addition to Mr. Becker, the Committee will be considering three additional nominations this morning: Cynthia Atwood, to be a member of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission; Kathleen Tighe to be the Inspector General for the Department of Education; and Irvin Mayfield, Jr., to be a member of the National Council on the Arts. 

“All three of these nominees have outstanding qualifications.  Ms. Atwood has spent the past three years as an Administrative Appeals Judge on the Department of Labor’s Administrative Review Board, and eight years as an Attorney Advisor for that same board.   Ms. Tighe currently serves as the Deputy Inspector General at the Department of Agriculture and before that spent 14 years as the Counsel and Assistant Counsel to the Inspector General at the General Services Administration.  Mr. Mayfield is a jazz trumpeter, bandleader, and Artistic Director of the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra.   I urge my colleagues to support them, and I thank Senator Enzi for his cooperation in moving this group of nominations.”