Now that Democrats have a bare majority in the U.S. Senate, thanks to the Georgia runoff elections in January, President Biden’s choices for executive-branch positions, judgeships, and other jobs throughout the federal bureaucracy should, in theory, face few obstacles to Senate confirmation. Given the nonexistent margin for error, this will require the cooperation of every single Democratic senator—never something I would recommend betting on. But Biden is certainly in a stronger position than it seemed he would be in the immediate aftermath of his party’s lackluster down-ballot performance last November.
Some of his cabinet picks have already been confirmed in lopsided bipartisan votes, but the Democratic majority is likely to matter most when it comes time for more controversial nominations, potentially including at least one to the Supreme Court. One vitally important but relatively lesser-known agency where Biden is sure to encounter fierce resistance from Republicans, regardless of whom he selects to lead it, is the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which administers federal labor law. Nevertheless, he and Senate Democrats should act, as soon as legally possible, to appoint and confirm new members who will get to work undoing the Trump board’s anti-labor reign of terror.
Established in 1935 by the New Deal–era law known as the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), the NLRB functions as a kind of quasi-judicial body that interprets and applies the NLRA, and adjudicates disputes between unions and employers. Its rulings in these cases carry precedential weight, so their consequences can be long-lasting. By tradition, the five-member Board has no more than three members from the president’s party, and currently has a 3-1 Republican majority with one vacant seat.