UPDATE: The rules change passed, 48 to 52. Majority Leader Reid passed the decisive 51st vote.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced on Thursday morning that he will “go nuclear” by changing the Senate rules to end filibusters of President Obama’s executive and judicial nominees, except for the Supreme Court.
The Republican minority has blocked the appointments of Robert Wilkins, Nina Pillard and Patricia Millett, all of the president’s appointments to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, from receiving an up-or-down vote.
All of President George W. Bush’s six appointments to the court — which has jurisdiction over much of the activity of the federal government — were approved by the upper house of Congress. Due to the court’s seniority system, its power is heavily tilted to Republican appointees.
Rather than allowing a vote on the three court vacancies , Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) called for the vacant seats to be removed from the court.
Reid listed a litany of obstruction by Republicans in the Senate, including the unprecedented attempt to use the requirement for 60 votes to eliminate a part of the executive branch, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the attempt to block a Republican nominee for the Secretary of Defense and the successful filibuster of a sitting member of the House of Representatives. More than half of the 168 filibusters in the history of the United States have happened during the Obama administration, he noted. In addition, 75 of Obama’s executive branch nominees are still waiting for confirmation—and they’ve been waiting for 140 days, on average.
Since the Constitution was ratified, 23 district court nominees have been filibustered — 20 of them were nominated by President Obama.
Senate Democrats used this chart to illustrate their point: