It’s a funny thing to celebrate the government being able to carry out its basic functions of governing, but here we are. In a big shift, a set of Senate Republicans, led by Sen. John McCain, relented on their insistence on filibustering seven of President Obama’s nominees. They did it to avert a rule change that Sen. Harry Reid was prepared to enact today.
In one way, we’re back where we started—the Senate minority still has the ability to filibuster a President’s nominees. But the blockade of these particular nominations is over, and that matters a lot.
In the deal, Senate Republicans agreed to allow a vote on 5 of the 7 nominees, including Richard Cordray to direct the Consumer Financial Protection Board, and they’ll allow a vote on two new nominees for open slots on the National Labor Relations Board. That means that Wall Street reform and labor law can actually be enforced, protecting consumers and workers.
It’s possible, too, that this could set a favorable precedent for future nomination fights. “The minority’s ability to filibuster executive-branch nominees was weakened, even if it wasn’t fully eliminated,” notes the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein.
However, the pledge to allow votes on NLRB nominees is just that—a pledge—and the filibuster remains essentially unchanged, leaving a practical 60-vote requirement in place for legislation and nominations. Today’s deal is a step in the right direction for the NLRB, the CFPB and other agencies, but we still need to look at ways to make the Senate work better so we don’t need to expect a showdown every time.