Organized labor scored a huge victory yesterday when Republicans who had been blocking President Obama’s radical nominees lost their nerve and reached a deal with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to allow confirmation votes to proceed.
The backroom political deal preserves — at least for now– the filibuster in the Senate.
As usual, Republicans got nothing in return.
Egged on by union bosses, Reid had vowed to execute a controversial parliamentary maneuver called the nuclear option in order to allow filibustered executive branch nominations to go forward and be approved with a simple majority of senators.(Republicans called it the constitutional option when they were in the majority in the Senate.) Under longtime Senate rules, the chamber will not normally proceed to a vote on legislation unless 60 senators or more vote to end debate. If the Senate is considering a change in its rules, the threshold rises to 67.
The nuclear option procedural playbook calls for the Senate’s presiding officer, who is always going to be a Democrat as long as that party is in the majority in that chamber, to rule that instead of a supermajority only a simple majority of senators is required to cut off debate. If a majority of the senators votes to uphold the presiding officer, his or her interpretation of the rules becomes a precedent. By this means the filibuster rule could be weakened or even abolished, a development that in the current environment would make it easier for President Obama to impose his economy-killing socialist agenda on the nation.
Reid gloated after his victory.“This must be a new normal,” he lectured.“Qualified executive nominees must not be blocked on procedural supermajority votes.”
As long as the Senate keeps approving Obama’s radical left-wing nominees, the Democratic majority won’t change the filibuster rule. Unlike a 2005 agreement on judicial nominees that restricted filibusters to “extraordinary circumstances,” this new bargain does not limit the use of procedural tactics aimed at stalling or blocking nominees. After the initial round of nominees is approved, the deal may yet fell apart.
The cave-in, predictably, was orchestrated on the Republican side by Sen. John McCain of Arizona.“Is it a panacea?” said the failed 2008 presidential candidate whose loss ushered in the Obama era.“No, but I think it’s an important step forward.”
“Look, we see the polling numbers,” McCain said, sucking up to the media.“Ten percent approval of Congress. Members of Congress want to work more together and get things done for the American people. We appreciate approval, obviously. That’s what politicians largely are about.”
Republicans could have allowed Reid to “nuke” the Senate and then fought back furiously by holding up congressional business until the other side cried uncle, but they chose not to bother.
Despite that warm and fuzzy feeling senators call comity that is allegedly spreading through Senate office buildings like an airborne virus, tempers are certain to flare in coming weeks as that chamber considers a series of controversial nominations for federal appellate courts. With Janet Napolitano’s retirement as Homeland Security Secretary, the Senate is expected to consider a new nominee who has yet to be named by the president. Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat who, like Napolitano, thinks all conservatives are terrorists, is rumored to be a contender for the post.
Meanwhile, as a result of the agreement, the Senate will soon vote on the nominations of Thomas Perez to be Labor Secretary, Gina McCarthy to head the Environmental Protection Agency, and two nominees to the National Labor Relations Board.