5/23/2013

Will Democrats blow up the Senate to make it easier to confirm executive branch nominees?

From Politico:
But it’s clear the majority leader wants to get something done and find 51 Democrats to support an unprecedented move to employ the so-called nuclear option — changing the rules so executive branch nominees can no longer be blocked by filibusters requiring 60 votes to break.Judicial nominees and legislation would very likely still face a 60-vote threshold on filibusters. . . .
I have a new book coming out next month, "Dumbing Down the Courts," that ironically shows that Obama has had a relatively easy time getting executive branch nominees confirmed.

An article in the LA Times makes this threat of rule changes all the more explicit:

Senate leaders had considered holding a vote this week to confirm Richard Cordray as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a nomination Republicans have maintained they would filibuster unless the Obama administration agreed to overhaul the agency. . . . 
Action is also pending on two of Obama’s Cabinet nominations — Thomas E. Perez for Labor secretary and Gina McCarthy for EPA administrator — after party-line votes in Senate committees last week. Two other Cabinet picks face confirmation hearings later this week. 
At his weekly news conference, Reid told reporters that he would not bring those nominations to the full Senate until after it considers two major pieces of legislation, the farm bill and comprehensive immigration reform. 
“So we'll have to look at July,” he said, with the possible exception of a pending nominee for the D.C. Court of Appeals. “We're going to make sure that all the nominees have votes.” 
Reid declined to discuss further changes to the Senate’s filibuster rules Tuesday. But in recent weeks he has been ratcheting up pressure on Republicans over what he has called “blanket, partisan obstruction” of executive agency choices. . . .
The New York Times from May 16th adds this:
. . . Gina McCarthy, Mr. Obama’s choice to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, and Thomas E. Perez, the nominee to be secretary of labor, were approved in committee with only Democratic votes. Their nominations now go before the full Senate, where they face likely Republican filibusters. 
The threat of further Republican attempts to thwart the president’s ability to assemble his second-term cabinet has increased the likelihood of a fight over the Senate’s rules, which allow the minority party to insist on a 60-vote threshold for almost every Senate action. . . . 
Republicans insist they are standing in the way of nominees who merit more scrutiny and pointed to the advancement of two more Obama administration choices on Thursday: Sri Srinivasan, whose unanimous approval by the Senate Judiciary Committee sends him to the full Senate for confirmation to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, and Ernest J. Moniz, the president’s pick for energy secretary, who was confirmed on a 97-to-0 vote by the full Senate on Thursday afternoon. . . .
Moniz is fairly radical guy and yet he got through without much trouble.

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