After failed labor board nomination, unions not too happy with Obama

By Al Kamen
Wednesday, February 17, 2010; A11

Looks like organized labor has joined the increasingly crowded ranks of the folks most unhappy these days with President Obama. The latest cause for their disaffection was a statement Obama put out late Thursday after the Senate confirmed 27 of some 63 nominees Republicans had blocked.

In the statement, Obama said he told Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday that he would make recess appointments if Republican senators did not lift their holds.

"Since that meeting, I am gratified that Republican senators have responded by releasing many of these holds and allowing [the nominees] to receive a vote in the Senate," Obama said.

So it's all hopey, changey, biparty. But the Senate Democrats weren't able to muster the 60 votes needed to get a vote on the nomination of labor lawyer Craig Becker to be chairman of the National Labor Relations Board. The arrival of newly elected Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) didn't make any difference.

Democratic Sens. Blanche Lincoln (Ark.) and Ben Nelson (Neb.) also opposed the nomination, apparently after having discovered that Becker, associate general counsel to the Service Employees International Union, was actually a pro-union lawyer. Truly shocking. Who knew?

The labor folks take Obama's statement to mean that there'll be no recess appointment this round -- meaning nothing at least until the next Senate recess, in late March -- and thus the five-member NLRB, unable to function for more than a year with only two members, will continue to be crippled.

Not that many controversial nominees were approved, an AFL-CIO spokesman said, at least "not enough to have a nonfunctioning NLRB."

They made it

Speaking of those approved, the list includes three top assistants to Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner: Marisa Lago to be assistant secretary for international markets, Charles Collyns to be assistant secretary for international finance and Mary J. Miller to be assistant secretary for financial markets.

At the Pentagon, Douglas B. Wilson was approved to be assistant secretary of defense, and Mary Sally Matiella was confirmed as assistant secretary of the Army for financial management and comptroller. Betty E. King heads to Geneva to be representative of the United States to the United Nations and other organizations there. At the Department of Health and Human Services, Ellen G. Murray was approved as assistant secretary for resources and technology, and Bryan H. Samuels was confirmed as commissioner on children, youth and families. (For the latest updates, by agency or alphabetically, go to

Not much controversy in those.

Let us re-tweet that

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs on Tuesday pronounced himself much pleased with his early foray into the world of Twitter.

Best be careful. Tweets move at warp speed. As the saying goes, a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.

For example, a State Department tweet last week noted that Scott Gration, special envoy to Sudan, was soon going to that country and would be meeting with President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. What? The indicted international war criminal? Stop the presses! Hold the tweets!

Oops! Turns out they meant he would be meeting with the president of South Sudan, as spokesman P.J. Crowley had said in the earlier briefing.

"A tweet issued earlier today by the State Department contained incorrect information concerning Special Envoy Gration's meetings in Juba," the department announced, giving the "correct information" (in bold below).

"Special Envoy Scott Gration travels to Chad and Sudan this coming week for discussions with members of Sudan's People Liberation Movement, in addition to meeting with the SPLM and President Salva Kiir.

"Sincere apologies for the error and inconvenience."

Phew. That was almost news.

Not ready for primetime

It's slow going in this town even for nonpaying, part-time jobs. Take for example the confirmations of eight members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the folks who oversee U.S. international radio and television programs. Many months in the making, the slate of four Republicans and four Democrats -- the secretary of state's designee breaks any ties -- was announced three months ago. The skids were greased for confirmation without even so much as a hearing.

But nothing happened before the Senate recess. There was word of a glitch with some of the nominees, but we're told that's not the case, just normal checks at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Now they're talking confirmations in March.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company