WASHINGTON - The Senate voted today to fill all five seats on the National Labor Relations Board and prepared to consider President Barack Obama's picks for top diplomatic and law enforcement posts as the chamber whittled down a pile of stalled nominations.
Tuesday's votes included the last of the seven nominees that were part of a bipartisan deal earlier this month in which some Republicans agreed to end stalling tactics. Democratic leaders hope to also push other nominations through the Senate before Congress begins its summer recess this weekend, but some face uncertain fates.
Even so, that bipartisan agreement - which saw Democrats drop a threat to change Senate rules to weaken minority party clout - has let Obama fill some major gaps in his second-term administration. That deal and the momentum it has created has let him install leaders at agencies including the FBI, the Labor Department, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
On Tuesday, the chamber moved rapidly for the normally glacial Senate and approved three Democrats and two Republicans to serve on the NLRB, which helps resolve labor disputes.
Without confirmation of at least one of them before Congress' recess, much of the NLRB's work would have ground to a halt by late August. That is when NLRB Chairman Mark Gaston Pearce's current five-year term expires, which would leave the agency with just two members - short of the three legally needed for it to conduct business.
Besides renewing Pearce for another five-year term, senators also confirmed Democrats Kent Hirozawa and Nancy Schiffer, who both have long experience as labor lawyers, to the NLRB. The two Republicans approved are a pair of attorneys who have worked with employers on labor issues, Philip A. Miscimarra and Harry I. Johnson III.
On Wednesday, senators planned to begin considering Obama's nomination of B. Todd Jones to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. It will also take up his selection of Samantha Power to become U.N. ambassador.