A RESPITE FROM OBSTRUCTIONISM

ABSTRACT: The US Senate reached a bipartisan agreement that ended the obstruction of confirmation for seven of the President’s nominees for executive branch positions. Votes will be held before the August recess on these seven nominees. To obtain this concession, Senate Democrats threatened to change the filibuster rule to prevent its use on executive branch nominations.

No permanent changes in the filibuster rules were made and there was no commitment to end obstruction of nominees beyond these seven positions. These positions are but the tip of the iceberg of obstructionism in the Senate. Hopefully, this respite from obstructionism will apply to other presidential nominations as well and will change the pattern of blocking and delaying confirmations of nominees. Only time will tell.

FULL POST: As you may have heard, the US Senate reached a bipartisan agreement that ended the obstruction of confirmation for seven of the President’s nominees for executive branch positions. Although this deal was greeted with widespread celebration, it is a small step and it is unclear whether it will have any long-term effects.

To obtain this concession, Senate Democrats threatened to change the filibuster rule to prevent its use on executive branch nominations. This rule change can be done with a simple majority vote, i.e., 51 Senators, and the Democrats had the votes to do so. After an extremely rare, three hour, bipartisan, closed-door meeting at which almost all of the 100 Senators spoke, followed by negotiations through the night, a deal was reached.

Votes will be held before the August recess on nominees for seven positions. [1]

  • Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. (He has been approved after a two year wait with a 66 to 34 vote.)
  • Gina McCarthy to head the Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Thomas Perez for Secretary of Labor.
  • Fred Hochberg for a second term as president of the Export-Import Bank.
  • Mark Pearce for a second term on the National Labor Relations Board.
  • Two nominees to the National Labor Relations Board to be named.

No permanent changes in the filibuster rules were made and there was no commitment to end obstruction of nominees beyond these seven positions. These positions are but the tip of the iceberg of obstructionism in the Senate. (See posts of July 21, 16, and 9 for more details.) Republicans in the Senate have taken the obstruction of confirmation of presidential nominees for judgeships and executive branch positions to an unprecedented level. They oppose nominees “for reasons unrelated to their basic qualifications, largely, it seems, to torment and undercut the president.” [2]

Hopefully, this respite from obstructionism will apply to other presidential nominations as well and will change the pattern of blocking and delaying confirmations of nominees in the Senate. Only time will tell.


[1]       Bierman, N., 7/17/13, “Faced with rules change, GOP relents on Obama nominees,” The Boston Globe

[2]       Keane, T., 7/21/13, “Too much transparency,” The Boston Globe

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