Employment Law Report

Senate Committee Hearing on Craig Becker Held on February 2, 2010

By Edwin S. Hopson

At the short hearing before the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee on February 2, 2010, on the nomination of Craig Becker to be a member of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the only witness was the nominee himself.   Mr.  Becker is currently associate general counsel for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and attorney also for the AFL-CIO.

Senator John McCain appeared at the hearing and asked some rather heated questions of Becker concerning possible conflict of interest issues should the SEIU be a party before the National Labor Relations Board in a case he was assigned to hear.  Senator McCain did not seem to be satisfied with the answers he received.

There were no other witnesses who appeared and Chairman Harkin indicated that he felt Mr. Becker would be confirmed.  The HELP Committee plans to vote on Mr. Becker’s nomination on February 4, 2010.  Last session, this same committee approved and voted out Mr. Becker’s nomination to the full Senate but his nomination died when that session of Congress ended without the full Senate’s voting on his nomination, which had been on a hold from Senator McCain.  President Obama recently renominated Mr. Becker.

Since a primary reason for Mr. McCain’s hold was based on the HELP Committee’s prior refusal to hold a hearing on Mr. Becker’s nomination, he may not place another hold after the upcoming committee vote in light of the hearing held.  Although there is a great deal of opposition by business groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, it would appear Mr. Becker will be confirmed since he is part of package of 3 nominees to the NLRB which includes the labor counsel for the ranking Republican member on the HELP Committee, Senator Michael Enzi, who voted for Mr. Becker in last year’s HELP Committee vote on the package of nominations.  In addition, if the vote on the Senate floor is prior to February 11, 2010, the date when Senator-Elect Brown of Mass. (R) is scheduled to be sworn in, then his acting precessor, a Democrat, would still be eligible to vote.  Senator-Elect Brown has reportedly (through his attorney) requested that Massachusetts election officials immediately certify his election victory so that he can immediately participate in Senate votes.