Senate rules compromise avoids “nuclear” option

The Senate achieved a “bipartisan” compromise today to approve seven executive nominations by President Obama that have been blocked by GOP filibusters for up to two years. The plan ends, for now, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s’ threat to turn to the “nuclear option,” which would involve reducing from 60 to 51 the number of votes needed to approve the president’s executive nominees.

The compromise comes after years of pressure by labor, financial reform, environmental and other progressive groups to allow up-or-down votes on executive nominees so the peoples business in the nation’s capital can finally get done.

The deal allows approval of five of the seven tied-up nominations to the National Labor Relations Board, the Consumer Financial Protection Board and the Environmental Protection Agency. The president is to withdraw the two “recess appointees” from his list of three nominees to the NLRB in exchange for Republican agreement to permit votes on his replacement nominees before the Senate’s August recess.

Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America, and a leader of the coalition that has been fighting GOP obstruction in the Senate, said that while he was pleased with the progress he was “infuriated” that the recess appointees to the NLRB, Robert Griffin Jr. and Sharon Block, “are being thrown under the bus. And its for no reason other than that the Republicans have to exact their pound of flesh and be able to go back to their benefactors in the Chamber of Commerce and say, ‘See what we did for you.'”

Republicans have claimed that the Griffin and Block appointments were illegal and the Supreme Court had agreed to review them.

“We assume the president will appoint two others who will be advocates for the 80 million American workers who need to be protected,” Cohen said.

Reid is still promising to use his “nuclear” option if, for any reason, the deal falls apart.

In the first sign that the deal is working, however, the Senate voted 71 to 29 today to move ahead with the confirmation of Richard Cordray to the Consumer Financial Protection Board, one of the nominations that they have strongly opposed. That opposition, they have admitted, is to the creation of the board itself more than it was to the selection of Cordray.

Expected soon is a decision to move ahead with the nomination of Gina McCarthy to head the Environmental Protection Administration and the appointment of Thomas Perez to the post of Labor Secretary.

“When top jobs at federal agencies are treated as temp jobs, critical people’s business is not getting done on everything from preventing Wall Street from getting back on the same risky behavior that caused the financial crisis, to holding corporate polluters accountable for releasing dangerous pollution into the air, to protecting workers from unfair treatment when they try to improve conditions or bargain collectively for pay and improved benefits,” said Cohen.

According to the latest survey from Quinnipiac University, 51 percent of voters believe gridlock is mainly a result of the congressional GOP’s determination to block any of President Obama’s initiatives.



John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.