President Barack Obama asked Senate Republicans Tuesday to stop blocking the confirmation his nominees with objections unrelated to their qualifications.
He has threatened to make "recess appointments" when the Senate goes on vacation next week if they do not act on the confirmation hearings.
Senate Democrats fell several votes short of the 60 they needed to send Craig Becker to a final confirmation vote. The final vote Tuesday was 52-to-33.
Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., a conservative Democrat, joined Republicans in opposing Becker's appointment.
Becker was nominated to be a union attorney for the National Labor Relations Board.
Republicans say they opposed Becker's nomination because he would give unions more power.