Senate Panel Advances Labor Authority Nominees
President Biden’s picks to lead the agency that administers federal labor law were sent to the floor by a party-line vote Wednesday.
A Senate panel on Wednesday voted 6-5 along party lines to advance President Biden’s nominees to lead the Federal Labor Relations Authority toward a vote by the full chamber.
In August, Biden renominated current FLRA Chairman Ernest DuBester for a new term at the helm of the agency, and nominated former Merit Systems Protections Board Chairwoman Susan Tsui Grundmann to be a member of the authority. He also tapped Kurt Rumsfeld to serve as the first permanently appointed FLRA general counsel since the Obama administration.
At their confirmation hearing last month, all three nominees vowed to tackle a backlog of hundreds of pending cases before the authority, caused in part by the fact that former President Trump never appointed a permanent or acting general counsel, which is required for unfair labor practice complaints to proceed for FLRA consideration.
Despite a mostly cordial hearing, Republicans on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee voted in lockstep against their nominations. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, the committee’s ranking member, said Republicans were concerned that DuBester’s office was the “least productive” at the FLRA, although he did not elaborate on what that meant, and said Republicans would have preferred to wait until all three FLRA members’ terms had expired to consider new appointees. FLRA Member Colleen Duffy Kiko’s term runs until July 2022.
“We have concerns about Mr. DuBester’s current role as chair, and when you look at the data, his office ranks as the least productive office in the agency, so there are some concerns there,” Portman said. “But second, we believe that because there is a quorum [on the FLRA] now and would be until July of next year, which is when the Republican nominee becomes open, we’d like to see this done in a bipartisan way with Republicans and Democrats nominated [at the same time].”
The FLRA did not immediately respond to requests to comment about Portman’s productivity assertion.
If lawmakers ceded to Portman’s proposal, the FLRA would remain effectively under Republican control until at least next summer. The nominations now head to the Senate floor for consideration.