John O'Connor

For many long-term care operators, labor relations might soon get even more challenging. And Senate Republicans are to blame, er, thank.

By cutting a deal with Democrats that prevents a possible filibuster-rules change, they did more than make sure the National Labor Relations Board would soon regain sorely-needed legal standing. They also paved the way for future rulings left and more left.

Of course, don’t expect our silver-tongued lawmakers to admit as much. They’ll claim they were doing what was necessary to stop Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid from enacting the so-called nuclear option. This “option” would change Senate rules to require a majority vote to confirm President Barack Obama’s nominees, rather than the current 60-vote threshold.

Despite what you may have read, this is no victory for bipartisanship, unless bipartisanship means one side rolls over. It’s obvious the GOP lost an important bargaining chip here. Which begs the question: What did the Democrats give up?

Well, lawmakers and the White House did agree to withdraw two left-leaning National Labor Relations Board candidates who were probably nominated illegally and stood a good chance of being nullified by the Supreme Court. The two dubious nominees were replaced by Nancy Schiffer, who retired last year as an associate general counsel at the AFL-CIO, and Kent Hirozawa, the chief counsel to the NLRB’s chairman. In other words, the Democrats lost probably illegal nominees who they replaced with legal nominees. Talk about sacrifice!

It is being said that labor unions are weakening in America. Apparently, Reid didn’t get the memo. According to insiders, AFL-CIO Boss Richard Trumka all but ordered Reid to threaten the nuclear option.

It’s not hard to see why Trumka might be so inclined. Organized Labor wants a quorum of at least three National Labor Relations Board nominees to keep issuing pro-union orders. What’s less easy to understand is why Reid was apparently so willing to go along.

This shabby arrangement is what passes in Washington these days for progress. But if this is the best Congress can do, maybe we’d be better off with gridlock.

John O’Connor is the editorial director at McKnight’s. Follow him on Twitter at @ltcritr.