Washington (CNN) - After a lengthy standoff, the Senate on Tuesday confirmed a full slate of members to the National Labor Relations Board, a politically sensitive and powerful panel that helps settle labor-management disputes.
“Although too few Americans are aware of the important job this board does, the NLRB looks out for the rights of millions of U.S. workers every day and remedies unfair practices by private companies,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, who is pro-union, about the five-member board that will be controlled by Democrats.
The three Democratic members - Mark Pearce, Kent Hirozawa, and Nancy Schiffer - and two Republicans members - Harry Johnson and Philip Miscimarra - were appointed by President Barack Obama.
Republicans held up confirmation of the president’s original Democratic nominees when GOP senators challenged the constitutional right of the president to make “recess appointments” while the Senate believed it was still in session. That issue is expected to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court this fall.
In the meantime, as part of a recent agreement to end a separate Senate struggle over filibusters of executive branch nominations, the president agreed to ditch his two recess appointments and pick two new Democrats to the NLRB. That led to clearing all five members in an unusual series of back to back votes Tuesday.
Despite the agreement, many Republicans remain skeptical of the Democratic appointments and the direction of the board under Democratic control.
Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the top Republican on the Senate labor committee, said last week his primary concern is "the ability of these two to set aside their pro-union advocacy past and act as neutral arbiters between employees and employers, so those parties can trust them to fairly adjudicate labor disputes.”
“This administration has been pushing the NLRB further and further toward the side of union advocacy, rather than fair adjudication,” he added.