Combined Hearing for Three Labor Nominees Slammed by Democrats

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By Ben Penn and Hassan Kanu

Three high-level Trump nominees at two separate labor agencies will share time at a July 13 Senate confirmation hearing, prompting some Democrats and worker groups to cry foul.

Patrick Pizzella, the White House pick for deputy labor secretary, and William Emanuel and Marvin Kaplan, both nominated to sit on the National Labor Relations Board, will testify before the Senate labor committee starting at 9:30 a.m.

All three are expected to eventually be confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate, but the panel’s Democrats are concerned that GOP leadership is rushing nominees with alleged anti-worker backgrounds through the appointment process. About 50 worker and civil rights groups also sent a letter July 12 urging the committee to postpone the hearing to allow for a more thorough review of the nominees’ records.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and other panel Democrats, will use some of their allotted time at the hearing to accuse Republicans of jamming through the three nominees without allowing enough time to vet their records, a Democratic HELP Committee aide told Bloomberg BNA.

President Donald Trump announced his intent to nominate Pizzella and Kaplan on June 19, before naming Emanuel June 27. The hearing will be held 23 days after Pizzella and Kaplan’s nominations were made formal, and two weeks after Emanuel’s. It’s not unusual for labor board picks from either party to wait several months or longer to clear the confirmation process.

“The NLRB is a critical agency that protects workers’ rights to speak up and join together to fight for fair wages and safe jobs,” Murray said in a statement provided to Bloomberg BNA July 12. “Given their anti-worker, anti-union records, I’m deeply concerned that President Trump’s nominees—who Republicans are trying to jam through at an unprecedented rate—will undermine important advancements of workers’ basic protections.”

The HELP Committee’s GOP office already announced that the panel’s 23 members will vote on Emanuel and Kaplan July 19, but it hasn’t yet scheduled a vote for Pizzella.

Abramoff Ties to Receive Scrutiny

Democrats are expected to grill Pizzella on his past work with notorious lobbyist Jack Abramoff, the committee aide said. Emanuel will face questions related to his lengthy career as a management attorney opposing unions, and Kaplan will receive some attention for his background railing against the NLRB as a House workforce committee staffer, the aide said.

But Murray is also going to home in on the procedural issues of Republicans scheduling the hearing within weeks of the formal nominations and holding one hearing for nominees to two distinct agencies. President Barack Obama’s NLRB nominees’ hearings were never blended with hearings for other agencies’ candidates, the aide said.

Marshall Babson, a Seyfarth Shaw attorney representing employers, recalled that he was packaged with two other NLRB nominees when the Senate approved him as a Reagan administration board member. Babson couldn’t speak to Pizzella’s record but said his direct knowledge of Kaplan and Emanuel leads him to believe they’re mainstream candidates.

“They’re very experienced labor practitioners—one from the Hill and one from private practice,” Babson told Bloomberg BNA. “It seems to me that each of them fits comfortably within the rubric of nominees for the past 25 or 30 years, from both parties, and that each of them is very qualified to be an NLRB member.”

A host of business groups and Republican lawmakers have praised the White House’s choices of all three nominees. After a longer than expected wait for White House nominees, the GOP is eager for personnel to help the DOL and NLRB to reverse a slew of regulations and decisions issued under the Obama administration.

Alexander’s Office Responds

“Mr. Emanuel, Mr. Kaplan, and Mr. Pizzella have complied with the HELP Committee requirements clearing the way for tomorrow’s hearing—where senators will be able to ask the nominees about any topic they like, and then, send follow-up questions in writing,” Taylor Haulsee, a spokesman for the committee’s chairman, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), told Bloomberg BNA in an emailed statement. “They have also been cleared of any potential conflict of interest by the nonpartisan government ethics office.”

The remarks from Alexander’s office followed the civil rights groups’ letter.

“The Senate will have only been in session for 10 days before Mr. Pizzella’s and Mr. Kaplan’s hearings, and a scant four days before Mr. Emanuel’s hearing,” wrote the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the National Employment Law Project, and others. “In carrying out its important role to advise and consent on presidential nominations, the Senate must conduct meaningful hearings where members have adequate time to examine the records of all nominees and be sufficiently informed about them.”

But Marc Freedman, executive director of labor law policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, told Bloomberg BNA that the merged hearing doesn’t preclude the committee’s members from getting their questions answered.

“Nominees for these positions engage in meetings ahead of their hearings, and when coupled with the hearings themselves, there is ample opportunity for senators to explore the questions they have for the nominees,” Freedman said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ben Penn in Washington at bpenn@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com; Chris Opfer at copfer@bna.com

Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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