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Senate clears 5 for NLRB; others' fates unclear

| Tuesday, July 30, 2013, 7:45 p.m.

WASHINGTON — The Senate voted on Tuesday to fill all five seats on the National Labor Relations Board and prepared to consider President Obama's picks for top diplomatic and law enforcement posts as the chamber whittled down a pile of stalled nominations.

The votes included the last of the seven nominees that were part of a bipartisan deal this month in which some Republicans agreed to end stalling tactics. Democratic leaders hope to push other nominations through the Senate before Congress begins its summer recess this weekend, but some face uncertain fates.

Even so, that bipartisan agreement — in which Democrats dropped 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 spawned have let him install leaders at agencies including the FBI, the Labor Department, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

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 five-year term expires, which would leave the agency with just two members — short of the three legally needed for it to conduct business.

In addition to renewing Pearce for another five-year term, senators 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 take up his selection of Samantha Power to become U.N. ambassador.

In a turnabout, Democrats were expressing optimism that they would win the 60 votes needed to end Republican roadblocks against a vote on Jones, whom Obama nominated in January to head ATF. The agency, which has not had a confirmed director since 2006, helps enforce federal gun laws.

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