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On Senate Floor, Shaheen Denounces Obstruction of Key National Security Nominees

Shaheen Screen Shot Senate Floor


Nominee for Post to Disrupt Terrorist Financing and Enforce Sanctions Has Now Waited 294 Days

(Washington, DC) U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen took to the Senate floor in an attempt to secure the confirmation of five nominees for key national security positions in the administration today, but was blocked by Republicans each time. Full video below. 

Senator Shaheen pointed out that one of the Republican obstructionists, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), was not even present to explain his objections, instead campaigning for President in New Hampshire.

The President’s nominees whose work continues to be obstructed are:

  • Adam Szubin, who has so far waited 294 days to be confirmed as the Treasury Department’s Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Crimes. This position leads the policy, enforcement, regulatory, and intelligence functions of the Treasury Department aimed at identifying and disrupting the lines of financial support to international terrorist organizations, proliferators of weapons of mass destruction, narcotics, and other actors posing a threat to our national security or foreign policy.  This position is critical to ensuring the sanctions on Iran, North Korea, Russia and other bad actors are implemented.
  • Azita Raji, who has so far waited 398 days for confirmation to be Ambassador to Sweden, and Samuel Heins, who has so far waited 265 days for confirmation to be Ambassador to Norway. Sweden and Norway are both key allies on the front lines of our efforts to contain Russian aggression. U.S. exports to both countries total $11.3 billion a year.
  • Brian Egan, who has so far waited 384 days for confirmation as principal advisor to the State Department and the Secretary of State. This role includes assisting in the formulation and implementation of the foreign policies of the United States, and promoting the development of law and institutions as elements of those policies.
  • Ambassador Tom Shannon, who has so far waited 135 days for confirmation to be Undersecretary for Political Affairs at the State Department. He would be responsible for working with the Europeans on implementation of the Iran agreement, coordinating the G7 to combat Russian aggression, as well as providing daily oversight and direction to all the Department’s regional bureaus. 

Senator Shaheen is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Video is also available here.

Senate Democrats Need To Move Quickly To Approve A New Member To The NLRB

Well the elections are over and the now, just ten days after all the votes were counted, it is obvious that we are headed for another two years of monumental gridlock.

The Republicans in the Senate used their minority power to filibuster major Presidential nominees forcing Harry Reid to take the “nuclear option,” changing the rules of the filibuster to a simple majority vote. This rule change means if all the Senate Democrats voted together, they would be able to approve any and all of the President’s nominees.

The Democrats only have a few weeks left in charge of the Senate and they should be using it to appoint dozens on nominees including a new board member to the National Labor Relation Board (NLRB).

President Obama’s NLRB appointments came under fire by Senate Republicans when President Obama forced his appointments through while the Senate was in recess. Although the Supreme Court ruled that recess appointments are legal, they also found that President Obama violated those rules when he appointed Sharon Block to the NLRB.

After the Supreme Court ruled that the Senate would need to approve of the nomination, President Obama once again submitted Sharon Block to the NLRB. Unfortunately her nomination was a poison pill to the Republicans and they blocked her nomination.

It was announced yesterday that President Obama has withdrawn his nomination of Sharon Block and in turn nominated “Lauren McFerran, who has served as chief labor counsel for the Senate Health Committee since 2005.”

“Sharon Block is a thoughtful, smart and committed public servant with a proven track record serving on the both the National Labor Relations Board and at the U.S. Department of Labor,” said Mary Kay Henry, President of the SEIU. “Today, once again, obstruction by the far right has stripped the American people of a qualified nominee with stellar credentials who would have served our nation’s working families ably and justly. It is disappointing for America’s hardworking men and women that such a capable candidate would fall prey to an extreme and crassly political agenda.”

Senate Democrats now have a choice to make, and they only have a few days to make it. Do they push through the nomination of Lauren McFerran to the NLRB before December 16th when Nancy Schiffer’s term expires, leaving two Republican and two Democratic appointees on the board?

“Congress must prioritize filling all of the seats on the NLRB and confirm the Obama Administration’s new nominee, Lauren McFerran, immediately,” stated Henry. “The rights of our 2 million members — and tens of millions of working people in every sector and vocation — are protected by labor laws that are best regulated by a fully functional NLRB. Lauren McFerran, is also an impressive candidate with a robust background in labor relations law and an excellent reputation for her professional work on the Hill. It is imperative to the security of our working families that Congress confirm McFerran swiftly.”​

The Senate Democrats need to grab the bull by the horns and push through some of these nominees before the Republicans, and their opposition to everything Obama, begins their two-year reign of terror in the Senate.

Bid to Return to Era of Open Season on U.S. Workers from the National Nurses United

The nation’s largest organization of nurses today condemned a conservative federal appeals court ruling overturning President Obama’s recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board, a step taken by the President only after the refusal of Senate Republicans to restore a quorum on the board to enable it to function.

“It is appalling that the court would reward the giant corporations and Wall Street, and the politicians they control in Washington, who have worked for years to overturn even modest protections for working people in the U.S.,” said RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of the 185,000-member National Nurses United.

“What that means in healthcare is a clear assault on the ability of nurses to act collectively to improve safety standards and public protections for patients,” said DeMoro. “If nurses are unable to speak out for patients and act together to safeguard conditions, all patients are threatened in an era in which most hospital employers place their bottom line above patient safety.”

“When the board is not controlled by corporate-oriented appointees, as it has been most of the past four decades, the game plan of the anti-union crowd is to bar it from operating, either by refusing to confirm appointees, defunding or other destabilization tactics,” DeMoro noted.

Without a quorum, which will now be the case again as a result of today’s ruling, workers experience delays that can drag on for years if they object to unfair discipline, intimidation or harassment by employers, or attempt to form a union to represent them, DeMoro noted.

In 2007, for example, the California Nurses Association filed labor board challenges in response to retaliation by a rural Northern California hospital against RNs for legally protected union activity.  After initial board delays, an NLRB administrative law judge ruled in 2009 that the hospital had acted illegally and ordered restitution for the nurses.

When the hospital employer appealed to Washington, the NLRB was unable to act for years because of the Senate action blocking Presidential appointments to the NLRB. Only after the recess appointments were made, was the NLRB able to act on the case, along with a long stack of other delayed decisions.

A final decision on the 2007 charge was issued just days ago affirming the 2009 law judge ruling. Now that decision, too, is in jeopardy, further delaying justice for the nurses. “Once again justice delayed is justice denied,” said DeMoro.

“That, of course, is the real intent of this court challenge, the obstruction of the Senate in confirming Presidential appointees, and blatant attempts by the U.S. Chamber of Chamber and the politicians they control, to gut any semblance of federal protection for workers who need a collective voice to counter multi-million dollar employers who profit off denying workplace rights, consumer rights, and reducing worker living standards,” DeMoro said.

Labor law was enacted in the 1930s precisely to assure some balance in the workplace and fair treatment for workers. It helped sustain the growth of unions which led to dramatic improvements in living standards for all Americans in the 1950s and 1960s.

“Since then, the neo-liberal agenda has been to overturn any labor law rights for workers, which has contributed to the growing decline of union membership and the concurrent decline in wages and economic security for all U.S. workers, while more wealth is transferred to corporate board rooms and yacht owners,” DeMoro said.

“This decision, DeMoro said, “is a further reminder that the labor movement and all those who believe in workplace and democratic rights need to step up our efforts to challenge Wall Street, the Chamber and the puppets it controls. We need to get back in the streets, forcefully challenge those who would deny our rights, and unite a broad movement to press for participatory democracy and social change.”

(Via press release from NNA)

AFL-CIO President Trumka’s Statement On NLRB Recess Appointments

Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka On Decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on the NLRB Recess Appointments
January 25, 2013

 From WIKIPediaToday’s decision by a panel of Republican judges on the DC Circuit is nothing less than shocking.  In a radical and unprecedented decision, the court has interpreted the Constitution in a way that would deprive both Republican and Democratic presidents of a critical tool they have used hundreds of times over the years – including 179 appointments by former President George W. Bush and 139 appointments by former President Clinton – to keep agencies functioning and make the government work.  In this case, the affected agency is the National Labor Relations Board – a crucially important agency that enforces workers’ rights.

We strongly disagree with the court’s reasoning and decision.  We fully expect this radical decision to be reversed, and that other courts addressing this issue will uphold the President’s recess appointment authority.  In the meantime, the appointees to the National Labor Relations Board remain in their jobs and the NLRB remains open for business.

The rights protected by this agency are too important for the agency to have to operate under a legal cloud.  We urge the Senate to promptly confirm a package of nominees to the NLRB.

Statement online here:  http://www.aflcio.org/Press-Room/Press-Releases/Statement-by-AFL-CIO-President-Richard-Trumka-On-Decision-by-the-U.S.-Court-of-Appeals-for-the-District-of-Columbia-Circuit-on-the-NLRB-Recess-Appointments

For the latest updates, follow @AFLCIO and @RichardTrumka on Twitter.

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