Reid and Senate move closer to deal on Obama nominees

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July 16, 2013

By Sarah Rosier

Harry Reid.jpg
Portal:Congress

On July 15, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that he would ask the Senate to change the rules through a July 16 vote that would ban filibusters for executive nominees. Many are calling a possible rule change Reid's nuclear option. [1]

This came after Republican senators were refusing confirmation for President Obama's Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) nominees. A Supreme Court ruling is likely in 2014 regarding the legality of recess and interim appointments by Obama that have since been declared unconstitutional by lower courts.[2]

The rule change would affect only executive branch nominations, not judicial nominees. Instead of requiring 60 senators' approval of a presidential nominee, a simple majority (51) would allow a nominee to be confirmed.[3]

A Monday night bipartisan, closed-door meeting with 98 senators was held to try to resolve the gridlock without a rules change. According to Reid, "We've had a very good conversation." Around 36 senators spoke during the meeting with Reid speaking first, followed by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL).[4]

Tuesday morning, when calling for a vote on CFPB nominee Richard Cordray, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) thanked his fellow members for their effort the night before at the meeting. Reid spoke following McCain, personally thanking McCain for his leadership during the meeting. As of Tuesday morning, there was no further word from Reid on a possible rules change.[4]

Aides to Reid and McConnell worked through the night on Monday. Late Tuesday morning, the Senate voted to move Cordray's nomination forward.[5][4]

A tentative agreement to avoid the nuclear option has been laid out that would require Obama to pull two nominees to the NLRB, Sharon Block and Richard Griffin, and replace them with nominees more likely to be confirmed. Senate Republicans would then allow the other five nominees to proceed through the confirmation process. To satisfy the deal, Obama nominated Kent Hirozawa, chief counsel to NLRB chairman, and Nancy Schiffer, general counsel at AFL-CIO, while withdrawing both Block and Griffin's nominations.[6]

On Tuesday afternoon, White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters that White House officials had not been involved in the Senate meetings.[7][8]

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