President Obama's decision on Saturday to make 15 recess appointments, most notably appointing Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board, has sparked a debate about partisan politics as well as the best ways to bolster the American workforce.
Becker's nomination to the NLRB was opposed by Republicans, as well as a couple of Democrats, who argue he will bring bias in favor of labor unions to the position. Becker currently serves as a lawyer for the labor organizations SEIU and AFL-CIO and has spoken favorably of the , a bill that would make it easier for workers to unionize.
Mr. Obama also appointed labor lawyer Mark Pearce to the board, which serves as a referee between unions and management in labor disputes. Three of the five NLRB seats have been vacant for more than two years, keeping the board from addressing hundreds of labor disputes.
The advocacy group American Rights at Work praised the president for making the appointments, arguing that the dismal economy makes the NLRB's work that much more important.
"When jobs are scarce, workers are often forced to endure unfair working conditions," American Rights at Work executive director Kimberly Freeman Brown said in a statement. "America's workers need a fully functioning NLRB to mediate their claims for better wages, benefits and other rights now more than ever."
Amy Dean, who previously served as head of the AFL-CIO Labor Council in Silicon Valley, wrote at Huffington Post that "any effective jobs strategy in America requires an efficient and functioning NLRB."
"Populating the NLRB with people who have experience in mediation is vital for the economy as a whole," Dean wrote. "Becker, has real experience reconciling differences between parties, and this makes him a justified pick."
By contrast, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce blasted the appointment, saying "the business community should be on red alert for radical changes that could significantly impair the ability of America's job creators to compete."
The Workforce Fairness Institute, an organization that claims to be funded by "business owners who enjoy good working relationships with their employees," released a statement saying Becker's appointment "will only result in higher unemployment and more burdens on small businesses due to his willingness to enact administratively portions of the Employee 'Forced' Choice Act."
The group called the appointment a "payoff to union bosses at the expense of America's employers and employees."
The Republican National Committee also picked up on the political accusation, sending out a memo Saturday in part entitled "Union Bosses' Bailout Begins," CNN reports.
White House Senior Adviser David Axelrod defended the recess appointments on CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday, blaming Republicans for blocking 77 of the president's appointees.
"The Republican Party has taken a position where they're going to try and slow and block progress on all fronts, whether it's legislation or appointments," he said.
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) countered that on CBS' "Face the Nation."
"[President Obama's] recess appointments belie the fact that hundreds of his nominations have been confirmed unanimously by the Senate," DeMint said. "But he has had mixed in with these batch of nominations some pretty radical folks."
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said on CNN's "State of the Union" that the president has thrown "fuel on the fire at a time when the debate about politics is a very angry debate to begin with."
He predicted that the recess appointments would "cause the election of a lot more Republican Scott Browns in November who are determined to come in and provide some checks and balances in Washington to stop the overreaching of the government," referencing the election of Republican Sen. Scott Brown to the the heavily Democratic state of Massachusetts.