On Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) voted to send the nominations of Mark Gaston Pearce (D), Sharon Block (D), Richard Griffin (D), Harry I. Johnson, III (R) and Philip A. Miscimarra (R) to the full Senate for consideration. While the votes in favor of Johnson and Miscimarra were unanimous, the Committee voted 18-4 in favor of Pearce, and 13-9 in favor of Block and Griffin. The votes approving Block and Griffin were the most divisive, as they are the two members seated via recess appointment in January 2012. Federal courts are divided as to the constitutionality of these appointments, a matter that is likely headed to the Supreme Court.

Last week the Committee held a more extensive hearing to discuss the nominees. Many of the same arguments both for and against the nominees made last week were reiterated during Wednesday’s executive session. On the whole, Republican members of the Committee expressed more concern about seating Block and Griffin and suggested that it would be better if they resigned and allowed President Obama to name two new Board appointees in their stead.

It is believed that all five nominees will be presented to the Senate as a package. Although Democrats hold a narrow majority in the Senate, it is uncertain whether they would be able to muster the 60 votes needed to thwart a potential filibuster of the nominations. At the end of August, Chairman Pearce’s term expires.