Going Nuclear

Standing Up to Unprecedented GOP Obstructionism

Republican leaders from the House and Senate got together and plotted on the very night President Obama was first inaugurated and agreed that there would be no cooperation, no compromise, no nothing but unceasing obstruction. And that’s exactly what we’ve seen ever since, whether it’s on legislation, judicial nominations, or other executive branch nominations.

After more than four years of unprecedented obstruction, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has said enough is enough. He’s previously made two agreements with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to try and get the Senate moving without formally changing the rules, but both times Sen. McConnell failed to keep up his end of the bargain and the Senate remained gridlocked. Some nominees have literally been stalled for years at a time.

Today, Sen. Reid filed cloture on seven Obama nominees, many of whom are to serve in positions that protect workers, consumers, and our clean air and water. If the Republicans still insist on blocking these nominations come Tuesday, Democrats are poised to use the so-called “nuclear option” to eliminate the filibuster on executive branch nominations.

Filibusters would still be allowed on legislation and judicial nominations, but Senate Republicans would no longer be able to paralyze the government by denying the president the ability to fill key vacancies.

This is an important first step toward making the Senate function as our Founding Fathers envisioned it when they specified in the Constitution that only simple majorities were needed to approve both legislation and nominations.

The practical consequences of this decision are huge. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau cannot issue rules in certain areas and do many key tasks unless it has a director. It will be difficult for the president to advance his agenda to combat climate change unless Gina McCarthy is confirmed to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Unless new members are confirmed to the National Labor Relations Board, it will literally cease to function soon — something that will hurt both workers and employers alike.

BOTTOM LINE: Republicans have engaged in years of unprecedented obstructionism and they have only themselves to blame if Democrats are forced to use the “nuclear option” to simply make the Senate function more like the Constitution says it should. Interestingly, many of the Republican Senators decrying this potential rules reform today argued vehemently in favor of it just eight short years ago.

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Advocacy Team