Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
The new "compromise caucus" of GOP Senators who reached an agreement with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid a couple of weeks ago to end the Senate filibusters of executive department nominees has withstood its toughest test: President Obama's nominees to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which Republicans have been trying to neuter for years.
As Vice President Joe Biden would say, "This is a big effin' deal!" It means there may now be a new governing majority in the Senate. The Septegenarian Ninja Turtle Mitch McConnell no longer has an iron grip on the Senate for his scorched earth policy of total obstruction.
The Washington Post reports, No-nukes deal in Senate holds:
Guess we can climb out of the fallout shelter now?
As part of the deal
struck earlier this month by Senate Republicans and Democrats to stave
off the “nuclear” option, the Senate on Tuesday approved all five
pending nominees to the National Labor Relations Board.
The slate included the two new nominees — AFL-CIO attorney Nancy
Schiffer and NLRB counsel Kent Hirozawa — who replaced President Obama’s
more controversial original picks, as well as the current NLRB
chairman, Mark Pearce, and two Republicans, Los Angeles attorney Harry
Johnson and Chicago attorney Philip Miscimarra.
[Update: The NRLB will have no vacancies for the first time in over a decade.]
Under the Senate no-nukes deal, in order to move his executive
nominations, Obama withdrew the two NLRB nominees whose recess
appointments last year are now under Supreme Court review and replaced
them with Shiffer and Hirozawa.
The Senate’s on a bit of a roll approving White House nominees: On
Monday, the chamber approved James Comey to head the FBI, and it is
expected to soon clear the nomination of Samantha Power to be the U.S.
ambassador to the United Nations.
Although there’s no nuclear fallout in the air, things could get
testy when the Senate this week also takes up the nomination of B. Todd
Jones, Obama’s pick to be the first permanent director of the Bureau of
Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in seven years.
The National Rifle Association confirmed Tuesday that it would remain
neutral in the confirmation of Todd Jones to head the Bureau of
Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, giving Jones a big boost in
winning Senate approval, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
It is unclear why the NRA, a long time foe of the ATF, is not
opposing Jones, although the powerful gun lobby's director of public
affairs confirmed that the organization would neither support nor fight
Jones is the current acting director of ATF–a post he has held since
September 2011. He also serves at the United States Attorney for
This is also a "big effin' deal!" The NRA has blocked an ATF chief for years.
The Senate dysfunction may return with judicial nominees, who are not part of the "no nukes" agreement that Harry Reid reached with the new "compromise caucus" of the GOP. The Next Filibuster Face-Off: Obama's Judicial Nominees:
Senate Democrats are poised to kick off the next big nuclear test on
Thursday with a committee vote on one of President Obama’s nominees to
the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, putting themselves on a collision
course with Republicans over the filibuster.
The Judiciary Committee is poised to vote on the confirmation of
Patricia Millett, who faced a hearing earlier this month. Given the
Democratic majority on the panel, she’s expected to be approved.
Republicans didn’t challenge her qualifications but held to their
position that none of the three vacancies on the influential court ought
to be filled.
Another Obama nominee to the court, Cornelia Pillard, also faced a hearing this month. Conservatives have labeled her extreme
over her efforts to advance women’s equality. A hearing for the third
nominee, Robert Wilkins, isn’t expected before the August recess. Senior
Republicans are foreshadowing a mass filibuster of all three nominees.
“They’re the most qualified men and women who’ve come up, and I
cannot think of any reason why such qualified men and women should be
turned down,” Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) told TPM on
Tuesday. “So if they’re blocked you should be asking the Republicans
because they’re the most qualified people in years — and far more
qualified than the ones that the Republicans supported.”
That puts the two parties on a path to yet another confrontation over
filibuster rules and the appropriate use of minority power.
* * *
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) made clear after the last
filibuster showdown — over executive branch nominees, which ended with
Republicans folding — that he retains his right to go nuclear in the
future if the GOP abuses the blocking tool.
The D.C. Circuit is often regarded as the country’s second most
powerful court because it often has the final word over executive power
decisions. It currently has eight active judges — four of whom were
appointed by Democrats and four by Republicans. But it has six senior
judges who also regularly hear cases, five of whom were appointed by GOP
presidents. The court has invalidated numerous executive decisions by
Obama on issues ranging from labor and environmental regulations to
The court is also a feeder to the Supreme Court, making the fight
more politically volatile. Four out of nine sitting justices were
plucked from the D.C. Circuit: Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices
Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
As has been the case so far, detente is likelier than a proverbial
mushroom cloud. In some ways the battle is tougher for both sides than
the clash over executive nominees.
* * *
Come what may, the fight isn’t likely to play out until members of
Congress return to Washington in September. And one thing Democrats have
going for them is that numerous rank-and-file Republican senators are fed up
with their years-long strategy of obstructing Democratic initiatives as
a matter of course. At least one Republican, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ),
is on record saying the three nominees shouldn’t be filibustered.
“I think the objections [to the nominees] are completely
unjustifiable,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) told TPM on Tuesday. “But
I’m very hopeful that a new spirit is gaining traction.”