Senate Ends Filibuster of Most Presidential Nominees

UPDATE: A statement from Sen. Mark Udall a short while ago:

"I have worked for years to bridge the partisan divide in Washington to find common ground with those I may disagree with, but Senate Republicans' ongoing and historic obstruction of highly qualified nominees is unacceptable. This obstruction is allowing a minority in the Legislative Branch to prevent the Executive Branch from doing its job for the American people. Coloradans expect better," Udall said. "Due to a cascade of obstructionism in the Senate, essential Executive Branch positions such as the Secretary of the Defense as well as dozens of judgeships — essential for Main Street businesses and job creators to settle disputes and have their day in court — have seen efforts to block up-or-down votes. These persistent vacancies undermine our economy, public safety and the fundamental promise of a functioning federal government. I did not relish today's vote, but it is necessary to protect the promise of the U.S. Constitution and to get government working again."




The Senate approved a historic rules change on Thursday by eliminating the use of the filibuster on all presidential nominees except those to the U.S. Supreme Court...

The unprecedented rules change means that President Barack Obama’s judicial and executive branch nominees no longer need to clear a 60-vote threshold to reach the Senate floor and get an up-or-down vote.

Both parties threatened to change the rules in recent years — but Reid said he felt compelled to finally pull the trigger after what he described as unprecedented use of the filibuster on Obama’s judicial picks, namely three blocked judges to the powerful D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“It’s time to change the Senate before this institution becomes obsolete,” Reid said in a lengthy floor speech on Thursday morning.

Both Colorado Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet voted in favor of the so-called "nuclear option," long threatened by both sides in different circumstances and finally enacted today. Both Colorado Senators have pushed for reform of the filibuster in some form for as long as they've been in the U.S. Senate. The change made today, while historic, won't affect the ability of Senators to filibuster legislation. The delay faced by nominee for posts in the Obama administration has been far longer than that faced by his predecessor. From the time of committee approval to confirmation, Obama's circuit court nominees–just as one example–have had to wait over 138 days on average–by comparison, George W. Bush's nominees waited 35 days.

With public approval of Congress at unprecedented lows, and partisan gridlock chiefly blamed, something had to give. It's true that the change made today could be used against Democrats at some point should they find themselves in the minority, but the risk to the credibility of the entire institution under the dysfunctional status quo appears to have forced this long-debated action.

41 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Voyageur says:

    "Nuclear Option" my ass.  Show me the clause of the U.S. Constitution requiring a super majority for Senate confirmation of presidential nominees.   It's not there.   When the framers wanted a super majority, such as for treaties, they required it.

    The word "filibuster" actually refers to piracy and for a long time, such acts of piracy have assaulted the constitution.   Advise and consent, boys and girls!  Vote aye or nay.  But stop your piratical assault on our constitution.

  2. Miss Jane says:

    It's about time.  The Senate Republicans are already threatening retribution. Norm Ornstein thinks they engineered this on purpose.  Interesting.



  3. BlueCat says:

    Chuck Todd had something very interesting to say about this. It's his perception that many GOP Senators quietly welcome this because the out of control filibustering has been due to tremendous pressure on them from special interests. These special interests no longer accept a mere "no" vote as enough. If you don't go beyond "no" and actively filibuster on their behalf you are out of favor with them.  He says that some of them see the rule change as a way out from under this relentless special interest pressure. With a simple up or down vote on nominees they can just vote no and be done with it. 

    The overwhelming majority of these nominee filibusters, historically unprecedented in number and frequency have nothing to do with the nominee's qualifications as demonstrated by the fact that when the block or filibuster is finally dropped almost all are confirmed easily. They are meant to prevent the implementation of policies by gumming up the works in government agencies whose mission they fundamentally oppose. 

    The Senate, in its advise and consent role, can now return to simply evaluating individual nominees. They can still vote no for any pissy reason but they can't hold the government hostage to a 60 vote requirement for every nominee. 

    And as far as fears of what will happen if the shoe is on the other foot?  We already saw what happened in that situation. First, this is just about nominees, not legislation. As for the ability of a Dem minority to block nominees, what happened the last time that came up was the Rs threatened to go nuclear and the gang of 14 made a "deal" whereby they wouldn't block nominees by filibuster if the Rs would be so kind as to  refrain from going nuclear. Huh? Some deal that was.

    Bet McConnell never thought Harry and the Dems would have the balls. Neither did I, for that matter.

    • bullshit! says:

      This was years overdue. I kinda wish Bill Frist had just done it back in '05 when he threatened to.

    • MapMaker says:

      Do you mean Chuck (my back is wet, it must be raining) Todd?

      I'm glad they finally, finally did this. Nominations should be a matter of routine business for the Senate. As for when the R's gain a majority in both the Senate and the Presidency, Chuck Grasley (I think) said they had plenty of Scalias and Thomases around. So when this confluence of power happens again, expect to see an entirely political judge nominated. It'll be: To hell with the law, damn the Constitution, God's Own Party says we're in charge, screw you..

      That alone should be reason enough for principled, honest people to work aginst Republicans (before being principled and honest disqualifies you from voting).

      • roccoprahn says:

        Absolutely. Now, had it been an across the board lift would have been optimal, but I understand the thinking.

        This will resonate. Guys like Merkley (Ore.) ond Udall (NM) are in the new breed and finally Reid heard them. The thinking has to be "If we do our jobs, and our ideas turn into progress, our legistation is the rising tide that lifts all boats, we never have to worry about these republican diaper stains being in the majority again".

        Why do anything unless you approach it that way?

        I'm proud of the Senate and my President. And the republican obstuctionist racist assholes can go screw themselves.

        Good for you Democrats. Finally you did it!

        • Duke Cox says:

          If this is the "New" Democratic Party, I 'm liking it… 'bout time.

          • roccoprahn says:

            Copy on that Duke, copy on that.

            We'll see what happens next.

            But finally, finally, Democracy won a round. In the history of the Republic untill 2008, 82 nominees have been filibustered. Since President Obama's 2009 Inauguration, 86 nominees have been filibustered.

            And now the chickenhawks, the racists, the baggers, the country clubbers, the hayseed goober republican base as a whole, they all (including this "maderatus" pencil neck)  scream foul!

            I love it!.

            I also like the weather moving in on the recall jackoffs. We'll see how much the local walmarts make selling the insulated camo jumpsuits to these nose runners. Better not forget the Sorrells.

            What's that set 'em back? Why the free Ar15 they're all competing for will barely cover the cost.

            We'll see.

            Maybe I'll talk to some of 'em this weekend making volunteer calls for Evie. I'll ask 'em. 

            Then again, paid kennedy staffers don't for the most part live in 19.


      • BlueCat says:

        Hey, those awful nominees getting through if we have an R majority and an R president again? That's exactly what we saw happen before when the Rs merely threatened to go nuclear. Dems proved just as impotent without the nuclear option actually being implemented so we may as well go for it, make hay while the sun shines and fight tooth an nail to see that we don't let the Rs take the Senate or the WH. Should be good for fund raising. 

        This makes twice in a row Dems haven't caved the way Rs expected.  It could get to be a habit. Goodbye gangs of 14 or however many? Hello backbone? One can only hope. 

    • roccoprahn says:

      Really well said BC.

      And neither did I.

      • Duke Cox says:

        Bullies always mistake kindness and fairness for weakness…they can't help themselves. It is why they always overreach.

        Many (most?)criminals get caught because they get greedy and can't stop themselves. They keep wanting more until the odds and the law catch up to them. Then the people will take it from there. That applies to political criminals as much as any others.

        For a parallel to todays' America, see the Nelson Mandela presidency in South Africa. The 2008 election was a sea change in the American consciousness and a glimpse at a new self-image. In many ways, it resembled the end of apartheid. Or, at least, a beginning to that end. The Republican party is trying to pull a "DeKlerk" on President Obama.

        We must organize and win by sheer force of numbers. Is everyone you know registered to vote? No?…change that.

        • roccoprahn says:

          Yes. And we need to remember that those who sat out this last one may well not be registered for the next one.

          A great way to check in Jeffco is to simply get on the Jeffco website, go to elections, and follow the prompts that will tell you if you're registered.

          Pam Anderson admittedly is a republican, but as Clerk and Recorder, she's a rare straight shooter that runs her department very professionally as well as with integrity. She's honest, doesn't bend to Gessler's "fuzzy math" shenanigans, and doesn't tolerate election fraud of Gessler's making.

          So check. And check again.

          Duke's right. We'll win if we get out the vote. Every time.

    • Hawkeye-X says:

      I give Chuck Toad zero credibility.

      Sorry, BC, but Toad is dead to us Democrats.


  4. Duke Cox says:

    I am hoping some bright tech person will set "McConnells' Lament" to music.

    I am listening to the poor soul crying about being abused by Harry Reid and the Democrats.

  5. ParkHill says:

    I think they should pull the Nuclear Option on Health Insurance reform: Allow people to buy in to medicare.

    • Duke Cox says:

      There's a good idea…a fine public option. What do you say you "free market" lovers? Howzabout it?

    • BlueCat says:

      Medicare for all would solve every problem. All the new young people would keep it super solvent. People on medicare are free to buy whatever extra supplemental they want but are guaranteed extremely affordable quality basic coverage as a floor. The infrastructure is already ther and working well.Insurance agents who might be thrown out of work by the change could even go to work in the expanded system. And so far I haven't seen any evidence of medicare death panels killing grandma. What's not to like?

      • gertie97 says:

        BC, I love the idea in principle, but has anybody you know about put actual numbers in on how much payroll taxes would have to go up to pay for it?

        They'd have to go up because current payroll taxes pay for the current Medicare beneficiaries who have gone through what they paid in their payroll taxes.

        Whatever we do, it won't be free. But I love the idea of basic care for all (like education K-12) and a way to insure yourself for extra (college, trade school, etc).


        • BlueCat says:

          People don't get medicare for free. Besides the  payroll taxes we all pay, participants pay a monthly premium. Those who can't afford to do so get medicaid. 

          We're self employed and when my husband went from the high deductible, high copay private insurance with a health savings account that had to be paid into too and that we were struggling to keep up with to medicare at 65, he got much better coverage through medicare for less than a third of what his private insurance had cost, a fourth without the required health savings account contribution, but it isn't free. We paid in on quarterly basis between 65 and when he applied for his full benefit social security at 67 at which point it's taken out of your social security check. 

          I'm sure the details of expanding it from seniors to universal could be worked out and younger people would be thrilled with the level of coverage for the cost. Since it would go from coverage only for those entering their most expensive health care years to including those in their least expensive health care years as well, the new, huge universal pool would bring down costs to where they are in  other modern industrialized countries where the per capita cost is less than half of what we spend here and access to quality health care is universal.

          There's no practical reason why we can't have what the rest of the well off nations have. There's just the irrational nonsense about evil socialized medicine taking away our freedom and killing grandma.

        • MADCO says:

          Of course, it depends.

          But if Medicare premiums were similar to the market rates for everyone under 65 (the magic eligiblity age now) – Medicare would become actuarially sound for a long long time. 

  6. Hawkeye-X says:

    Next step: Nuking the Republicans out of the office. Permanently. A minority-minority-minority party for years to come, without any hope of any right-wing ideology of coming in to the government EVER again.

    Reid should have nuked on EVERYTHING, not just standard justices. It's way past time because the Republicans has been screwing the Dems for 35+ years, and it's time for some serious payback. The time is ripe for a major offense which should include a single 2×4 stick to hit people on the head to get them a clue when they are yammering about taking away insurance.

  7. Democrats have nothing to regret for this, Mod.

    Republicans went to the brink on killing the filibuster during the Bush 43 years, and only stopped when Democrats let through several very partisan, less-than-qualified nominees as a conditionn of not going nuclear way back in 2005. Republicans are more partisan now than they were then – if the GOP gets the Senate and Presidency, I fully expect that they would have nuked the filibuster on nominations anyway.

    And, as several Democratic Senators pointed out today, it's not like Republicans in the Senate have been particularly helpful in passing legislation over the past 4+ years. In fact, they've often filibustered even simple things – like appointing members to a budget conference committee. If Republicans want, they can make Senate life more painful over the next year (or three if Democrats keep control) by requesting procedural votes for every miniscule action – but I'm guessing Democrats are hoping for that level of obstruction to ease their 2014 campaign season.

    Finally, Republicans seem to be running under the assumption that they'll be winning both the Presidency and control of the Senate in 2016. That's not terribly likely – 2016 has a good schedule for Democrats in the Senate, unlike the 2012 and 2014 Senate classes.

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