Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) reportedly reached a deal on Tuesday to avert a filibuster showdown in the Senate over the confirmation of nominees to head government agencies. According to the Washington Post, the deal, which Reid said will be finalized by Tuesday afternoon, came after an unusual late-night, closed-door bipartisan Senate meeting Monday night.
“We may have a way forward on this, I feel fairly confident,” said Reid Tuesday from the Senate floor. “I think everyone will be happy.”
At issue are dozens of nominees chosen by President Barack Obama to head multiple government agencies, including the Consumer Protection Financial Bureau and the National Labor Relations Board. As Think Progress reported, this deal clears the way for seven nominees to be confirmed on Tuesday.
After pausing Tuesday morning to swear in newly elected Massachusetts Senator Edward J. Markey (D), who was the victor in a special election held to fill the seat of recently appointed Secretary of State John Kerry, the Senate resumed its ongoing quarrel over the president’s nominees. Reid warned Republicans that he was on the verge of executing the so-called “nuclear option,” which would change the rules governing the approval of nominees. Instead of the 60 votes required to end debate and move on to a vote to approve a nominee, Reid would change the rules to allow for a simple majority of 51 Senate votes.
Republican Minority leader Sen. Mitch McConnell offered to let seven of Obama’s nominees to come to a vote before the Senate if Reid would agree not to go “nuclear,” but Reid declined.
“We’re fighting for the principle that executive nominees should get up-or-down votes,” one senior Democratic aide said to Talking Points Memo on Monday. “If Republicans will give us that, there’s a chance we won’t go nuclear, but we will maintain the ability to go nuclear if they start filibustering nominees again.”
Then in the late morning, Reid announced the tentative deal, under which the Republicans would allow votes on the floor for the president’s nominees to the Consumer Protection Financial Board and the National Labor Relations Board. Shortly thereafter, the Senate voted 71 to 29 for cloture, allowing the vote to proceed on Richard Cordray, Obama’s nominee to head the CPFB. In return, Reid agreed to back off the nuclear option for the time being.
Reid said on Monday that something had to be done in order to jump start the nomination process, which ground to a halt thanks to Republican obstruction. The agencies deserve to not languish, leaderless, indefinitely, he said, and the nominees themselves deserve the chance to face an up or down vote before the Senate.
“These are good people,” he said.
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
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