Senate Clears Way for Obama Nominations

Barrington M. Salmon | 12/4/2013, 3 p.m.
The new year will reveal to the public and others, what the actual effects of a Democratic move to blunt ...
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Courtesy photo)

The new year will reveal to the public and others, what the actual effects of a Democratic move to blunt Republican overuse of the filibuster will have on relations between both parties.

Last month, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, finally tired of Republicans’ calculated attempts to deny President Barack Obama any chance to choose members of the judiciary and cabinet, and triggered what’s commonly referred to as the “nuclear option.”

The Senate voted 52-48 on Nov. 21 to remove the GOP’s primary weapon of blocking Obama nominees. Going forward, a simple majority of 51 will allow executive branch and judicial nominees below the tier of the Supreme Court to be considered in the full Senate for a straight up-and-down vote. That replaces the need to have a super-majority of 60 votes.

Reid’s decision is delayed recognition that without this landmark change Obama would neither have the opportunity to exercise his constitutional right to shape the judiciary as he sees fit, nor be able to choose members of his cabinet and administration.

“The American people believe Congress is broken. The American people believe the Senate is broken. And I believe the American people are right,” said Reid. “During this Congress – the 113th Congress – the United States Senate has wasted an unprecedented amount of time on procedural hurdles and partisan obstruction. As a result, the work of this country goes undone. Congress should be passing legislation that strengthens our economy and protects American families. Instead we’re burning wasted hours and wasted days between filibusters.”

“Even one of the Senate’s most basic duties – confirmation of presidential nominees – has become completely unworkable. For the first time in history, Republicans have routinely used the filibuster to prevent President Obama from appointing his executive team or confirming judges.”

But Reid and the Democrats’ move has political pundits and experts saying that it could make already poisonous relations between the Democrats and the GOP even worse, if that’s possible. Republicans wasted no time in firing back. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), promised retaliation, saying Republicans would exact revenge next year at the polls.

“It only reinforces the narrative of a party willing to do or say anything to get its way,” he said in published reports. “Once again, Democrats are threatening to break the rules of the Senate … in order to change the rules of the Senate. And over what? Over a court that doesn’t have enough work to do.”

“Some of us have been around here long enough to know that the shoe is sometimes on the other foot. You may regret this a lot sooner than you think. The solution to this problem is at the ballot box. We look forward to having a great election in 2014.”

Political analyst Avis Jones-DeWeever praised Reid’s move, saying it was long overdue.

“Oh good Lord, it was past time,” she said during a recent interview. “He took his time and hesitated because of the nature of the change. I think he was backed into a corner because of the unprecedented level of obstruction. He did so in a limited way but I wish he had done it sooner. I think he should broaden it because it doesn’t include Supreme Court nominees and others.”