By STEVE TETREAULT
Stephens Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON — The Senate last week failed to confirm President Obama’s choice to sit on the National Labor Relations Board, as the nomination was blocked by Republicans and several Democratic critics.
Democratic leaders were unable to cut off a filibuster against Craig Becker to join the labor board. The vote was 52-33, while 60 votes were needed.
Becker, associate general counsel to the Service Employees International Union, was strongly opposed by business groups who feared he might tilt the five-member board against employers and in favor of organized labor, particularly on the issue of union organizing.
Becker was "the first person nominated for a term on the National Labor Relations Board who comes directly from a labor organization," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., one of the senators xwho argued against him.
Speaking in favor of Becker, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said the nominee was highly skilled and no doubt qualified, with more than 30 years of experience practicing employment law before top courts.
"That sounds like the kind of nominee we want on the National Labor Relations Board," Brown said. I would add... to serve the interests of the middle class, to serve the interests of this country, we need to fill these jobs with qualified people."
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., said the opposition to Becker was "manufactured by the Senate minority for only one reason--a filibuster as political tactic to stonewall President Obama at every turn."
The Becker nomination was opposed by 31 Republicans and two Democrats, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Ben Nelson of Nebraska.
Voting for Becker were 51 Democrats and Independent Joseph Lieberman. Fifteen senators did not vote, an unusually high number of absentees due to the snowstorm that had hit the capital city.
While Lincoln voted against Becker, Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., did not vote.
The Becker vote was the only one of substance during the week, as the Senate curtailed its activities and the House of Representatives did not meet at all because of bad weather.