Members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (“HELP”) approved the nomination of Richard Griffin, Jr. to serve as General Counsel of the NLRB by a 13-9 vote.  Griffin’s nomination will now proceed before the full senate for what is expected to be a contentious vote.

Griffin was in the headlines last year as one of three President Obama recess appointments to the NLRB that sparked a political firestorm.   As reported here, the D.C. Circuit ultimately struck down the appointments, finding that they were constitutionally invalid.

President Obama is now attempting to recast Griffin as the General Counsel for the NLRB.  The general counsel position is powerful, as it oversees union elections and referees private-sector management-labor disputes. While the five-member board rules on cases, the general counsel decides when to investigate and prosecute companies charged with unfair labor practices.

Though Griffin’s nomination is expected to face fierce opposition, on a practical level, the resistance could be futile.  A provision in the NLRB regulations allows the president to appoint a general counsel on an acting basis.   Indeed, Lafe Solomon never won confirmation from the Senate, but has served as acting general counsel since June 2010.

Griffin previously served as General Counsel for International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE).  He also served on the board of directors for the AFL-CIO Lawyers Coordinating Committee, a position he held since 1994.