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President withdraws two NLRB nominations, Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection nominee is confirmed

July 16th, 2013  |  Pamela Wolf

By Pamela Wolf, J.D.

As a result of a brokered deal to avert a potential disaster, President Obama withdrew the nominations of his two recess appointments to the NLRB, the question of whether the Senate rules should be changed to get rid of the filibuster with regard to executive nominations has been delayed, and one of the president’s nominees has been confirmed by the Senate.

At about 11:00 am (ET) July 16, 2013, the Senate, by a vote of 71-29, agreed to a cloture motion to limit the debate on President Obama’s nomination of Richard Cordray to be Director of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection for a term of five years. The move signaled a halt to Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev) threat to impose the so-called “nuclear option,” under which he would move forward with a plan to change the Senate rules to eliminate filibusters with regard to executive branch nominations.

The battle between the parties over the stall on Obama’s nominations reached fever pitch this week, particularly with regard to Cordray, the five slated candidates to serve as members of the NLRB, and the pending nominee for Secretary of Labor. Without action on the NLRB nominees, the agency would be effectively shut down when the term of the only confirmed board member expires on August 27.

Good for the Senate. In floor statements leading up to the cloture vote, Senator John McCain (R-Ariz) noted that a meeting last night between 98 senators working to avoid the nuclear option was a “productive discussion” on resolving issues. Reid noted this was “not a time to flex muscles” and was appreciative of McCain’s “advocacy and persistence.” Reid concluded that compromise was “good for the Senate.” Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn), a member of the Senate Banking Committee, noted that after moving past the cloture vote on Cordray it was time to “work constructively” on the country’s problems.

Deal to end stand-off. Under a deal forged to avoid the nuclear option, the president has withdrawn the nominations of his two recess appointments to the NLRB, members Richard Griffin and Sharon Block, and will nominate two other individuals with input from organized labor, which traditionally has been aligned with Democrats, according to media reports. In exchange, Reid agreed to delay action on the question of whether the Senate rules should be modified.

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn), the senior Republican on the Senate HELP Committee, released a statement confirming the agreement reached by Senate leadership and the White House, under which the administration will send two new nominees to the NLRB and pull the Griffin and Block nominations. The White House, Alexander said, will submit two new nominations shortly. The HELP Committee has already scheduled a hearing for 10 a.m. on July 23 on the two new nominees, he noted.

HELP Committee Chairman Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) also issued a statement: “Today’s deal, while not ideal, will allow for a fully-confirmed Board for the first time in a decade, and that is a step forward for our country. It is my hope that Republicans will make good on their word to give swift consideration to these nominees, and that this could bring a new beginning for the Board, so that the dedicated public servants at the agency can do their jobs without the constant political attacks and interference that we have seen in recent years.”

“While today’s agreement on nominees leaves the necessary work of Senate rules reform still to be done,” he continued, “I am pleased that the minority appears to be willing to allow the Senate to move on a number of important executive nominations, consistent with the history of the Senate and, I believe, with the framers’ intent. In particular, I welcome the news that the Senate will act to advance the nomination of Thomas Perez to serve as Labor Secretary.”

Meanwhile, Cordray’s nomination was confirmed in the Senate by a vote of 66-34.