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Senate clears backlogged Obama nominations

From Ted Barrett, CNN Congressional Producer
  • Vote over member on the National Labor Relations Board had stalled dozens of nominations
  • Democrats agreed to put off vote on that member, Craig Becker
  • Dozens of other Obama nominations still await action, according to Senate majority leader

Washington (CNN) -- The Senate cleared dozens of backlogged Obama administration nominations Tuesday, including two appointments for the National Labor Relations Board that will allow it to operate with full membership for the first time in two and a half years.

Senators approved unanimously the appointment of Democrat Mark Pearce and Republican Brian Hayes to fill out the five-member board, which mediates labor-management disputes. Just last week, the Supreme Court ruled the NLRB acted without authority in more than 500 cases because it had just two members.

Action on the nominations came only after Democrats agreed to put off a vote on another NLRB member, Craig Becker, to a full five-year term on the board.

Becker, who Republicans adamantly oppose because of his long ties to labor unions, is currently serving temporarily on the board after getting a recess appointment from President Obama this spring. A recess appointment allows Becker to serve without Senate confirmation but his term will expire at the end of this congressional session in early 2011.

Democrats can still act to get Becker a full term on the board but it will require a lengthy floor debate to overcome a Republican filibuster.

The agreement over the NLRB positions allowed Senate Democrats and Republicans to clear more than 60 other largely non-controversial appointments stalled over the NLRB standoff. They include members to the Amtrak board, the National Transportation Safety Board, judges to the District of Columbia Superior Court, and other positions.

The battles over Obama's nominees have been spirited in the last year with Democrats accusing Republicans of purposely delaying votes on the president's choices. Republicans say that's not true and accuse Democrats of trying to jam through controversial nominees without any debate.

The issue will be in the spotlight again Wednesday when the Senate Rules Committee meets to discuss ending the use of secret "holds" by senators to anonymously block nominations. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, announced late last week that she has the support of 67 senators to change Senate rules and ban the holds.

Despite the breakthrough Tuesday, dozens of other Obama nominations await Senate action, according to the office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.