U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham said Monday that he would hold up confirmation of President Barack Obama's pick for Department of Commerce secretary until the president gives support to Boeing's move to South Carolina for its new North Charleston plant.
Graham sought to put pressure on Obama to stand up against a complaint filed by the National Labor Relations Board against Boeing that questioned whether the company built its new 787 Dreamliner assembly line in the right-to-work state of South Carolina rather than in union-backed Washington state to avoid the labor union in retaliation after workers there went on strike in 2008.
The White House didn't respond Monday to GreenvilleOnline.com's request for comment.
Graham said the president has good reason to support Boeing's decision: Obama's ties to the company run deep.
Obama's chief of staff, Bill Daley, was on Boeing's board of directors when it voted to come to South Carolina. His lead export official, Jim McNerney, is Boeing's president and CEO. And Obama's pick as Commerce secretary is John Bryson, a former Boeing board member.
Graham said he is asking Obama to stand up for the men and the company they represent.
"Tell the country we think Boeing's a good, ethical company and they've done nothing wrong," Graham said.
Until Obama shows his support for Boeing and against what Graham called a "frivolous complaint," Graham said he would put a hold on Bryson's confirmation.
Graham said that though the president can't take sides in the complaint, he could stick up for Boeing as an ethical company.
Daley, the former Commerce secretary for President Bill Clinton from 1997 to 2000, served on Boeing's board until January, when he resigned to become Obama's chief of staff.
"Clearly they knew that Daley was on Boeing's board and clearly they knew the complaint had been filed for almost a year and clearly they felt comfortable with Mr. Daley's decision," Graham said Monday at a luncheon hosted by the Mauldin Chamber of Commerce.
McNerney, who commended Bryson's nomination as commerce secretary, was himself tapped to lead Obama's export council in March with a goal to double the nation's export output within five years.
Graham said Obama would never hire the head of "a union-busting company" to head his export council.
"Do you think he (Obama) would have picked the CEO of a company he believed had violated the law?" Graham asked.
The complaint against Boeing has drawn South Carolina into the center of an international and national debate that continues today with a hearing of the NLRB case in Washington state.
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will hold an NLRB hearing in North Charleston on Friday where acting general counsel Lafe Solomon will testify.