Big business, Republicans: Obama's new labor board picks don’t fix disarray

FILE: April 12, 2013: President Obama hosts a White House event for the U.S. Naval Academy football team.

FILE: April 12, 2013: President Obama hosts a White House event for the U.S. Naval Academy football team.  (AP)

President Obama's two Republican picks this week for the National Labor Relations Board have a background of defending big business, but the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups gave the nominations a big ho-hum.

What they really want is for Washington to first clean up the labor board mess – a federal court invalidating three Obama appointments that resulted in nearly 100 constitutionally questionable rulings by the board.

"The president has the right to nominate whoever he desires," Randy Johnson, a chamber senior vice president, said after Tuesday's appointment announcement. "However, it should be emphasized that the current board has issued many decisions of serious concern to the business community."

The situation exploded in January when a three-member panel of a federal appeals court ruled Obama's three so-called "recess appointments" in January 2012 violated the Constitution because the Senate was technically not in full recess.

The panel's far-reaching decision has called into question the constitutionality of roughly 90 cases because the five-member board needs at least three members – a quorum -- to make a ruling.  So the board was deciding on labor disputes with only two members because the other three were invalid, according to the court ruling.

Republicans have since argued the board lacks any legitimacy to act.

The Supreme Court has already gotten involved and could wade deeper into the issue later this month.

In February, Justice Ruth Ginsberg threw out the first request for the High Court to consider a case decided by the invalidated board members.

Meanwhile, the White House plans to appeal the lower court decision to the Supreme Court and has until April 25 to decide.

The White House says the court's first-of-its-kind ruling runs contrary to more than 150 years of practice and would invalidate hundreds of recess appointments in Democratic and Republican administrations.

Big business this week threw its support behind the new Obama appointments -- Harry I. Johnson, III, of Virginia, and Philip Andrew Miscimarra, of Illinois, Republican lawyers who have represented companies in labor-management disputes.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka expressed his support for the five-nominee package, including Johnson and Miscimarra whom he said: "have views on labor relations matters that we do not agree with."

"But working people need and deserve a functioning NLRB," Trumka continued.  "And confirmation of a full package will provide that stability."

The others in the five-person package are Democrats Sharon Block and Richard Griffin, whose appointments were invalidated, and board Chairman Mark Gaston Pearce, a New York Democrat re-nominated by Obama in February.

Obama this week urged the Senate to move swiftly on the confirmations.

But Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has already raised objection, though Republicans approve of Johnson and Miscimarra, who will serve five-year terms.

"At a minimum, the president needs to send two new Democrat nominees to replace the two who were unconstitutionally appointed," McConnell said.

The Kentucky Republican also said the Senate, though controlled by Democrats, would give Pearce's nomination added scrutiny "given his decision to continue purporting to exercise government power, despite the … court's ruling that he does not lawfully possess it."

Leaders of the Republican-controlled House asked Obama in February to work with the Senate to confirm four qualified people to the board.

On Friday, the chamber voted in favor of stopping the board from conducting business until the dispute over the recess appointments is resolved.

The bill is not expected to gain traction in the Senate. However, Obama has vowed to veto it.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.