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Biden Pick for NLRB Top Lawyer Advanced as Harris Breaks Tie (2)

July 20, 2021, 5:22 PM; Updated: July 20, 2021, 6:03 PM

Jennifer Abruzzo, President Joe Biden‘s pick for general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board, appears on track for confirmation after the Senate narrowly advanced her nomination on the strength of a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Kamala Harris.

The divided Senate voted 51-50 to limit debate on Abruzzo’s nomination Tuesday, with Harris appearing in the chamber to break the partisan deadlock. The Senate is expected to hold a final vote to confirm Abruzzo this week, and Harris may again be needed to push Biden’s nominee across the finish line.

A longtime NLRB and union attorney, Abruzzo faced scrutiny from Republicans on the chamber’s labor panel over her alleged role in preparations for Biden’s decision to fire Peter Robb, the NLRB’s top lawyer during the Trump era, on Inauguration Day. The labor committee had deadlocked on Abruzzo, which required a vote by the full chamber to advance her to the floor.

The full Republican conference was united in opposition Tuesday. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), in floor comments before the vote, criticized Biden for firing Robb months in advance of the end of his Senate-confirmed term.

“Where Senate confirmation and fixed terms were supposed to create independence, this administration just wanted partisan loyalty,” he said, according to his prepared remarks.

Businesses have sued over actions that NLRB Acting General Counsel Peter Sung Ohr has taken since Biden appointed him to the role after firing Robb and Robb’s replacement, Alice Stock. They’ve argued the president doesn’t have the authority to fire the general counsel of an independent agency because the NLRB and others like it are supposed to be removed from White House influence.

(Updated with comments from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in paragraphs 4 and 5. An earlier version corrected the vote tally in paragraph 2.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Ian Kullgren in Washington at ikullgren@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: John Lauinger at jlauinger@bloomberglaw.com; Andrew Harris at aharris@bloomberglaw.com

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