Taking Yes for an Answer

GOP Blockade of Nominees Collapses

Today was supposed to be D-Day when it came to the so-called nuclear option in the Senate — a relatively minor change in the Senate rules to stop a minority of senators from using the filibuster as a means of nullifying democratically created government agencies and functions that they object to purely for ideological reasons.

After a three and a half hour meeting last night and ongoing negotiations through this morning, senators announced a deal to avert changing the Senate rules. Nevertheless, the deal represents a huge victory for Democrats and an almost unconditional surrender on the part of Senate Republicans.

Here’s the main elements of the deal:

  • The president’s nominees to head the Department of Labor, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Export-Import Bank, and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) will be confirmed without delay.
  • Two of the president’s current nominees to the National Labor Relations Board will be withdrawn; however, Republicans agree in advance to confirm any two nominees of the president’s choosing before the Senate recesses in August.
  • Democrats retain the right to revisit changing the filibuster rules on executive branch nominees at any time should Republicans once again begin a blockade.

Interestingly, Senate Minority Leader McConnell (R-KY) had offered a deal last night that would have also confirmed the current group of seven nominees, but would’ve required Democrats to promise to never again threaten to change the rules. Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) wisely rejected this offer in favor of the offer outlined above made by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and a group of breakaway Republicans.

Real progress has already been made as a result of this deal. CFPB nominee Richard Cordray had been prevented from receiving an up-or-down vote by Senate Republicans for 730 days. Following today’s deal, a cloture motion on his nomination passed 71-29 and a final confirmation vote is expected later today.

Hopefully this new spirit of cooperation from Senate Republicans will also extend to other areas. The president deserves up-or-down votes on his judicial nominations, which have also faced unprecedented levels of obstruction and delay from some Senate Republicans. In particular, we look forward to timely votes on the president’s three nominations to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

BOTTOM LINE: Today’s deal does not fix all of the problems with the Senate, but it represents a huge victory for consumers, workers, and anyone who cares about clean air and water. In addition, the deal underscores that a unified Democrat caucus can stand up to unprecedented Republican obstructionism and get results.

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Advocacy Team