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Saturday, October 22, 2016

Senate GOP Reopens ‘Nuclear Option’ Debate By Blocking Two Presidential Nominees

Senate GOP Reopens ‘Nuclear Option’ Debate By Blocking Two Presidential Nominees

Senate Republicans revived the debate over filibuster reform on Thursday, by blocking the nomination of U.S. Rep. Mel Watt (D-NC) to lead the Federal Housing Authority and the confirmation of Patricia Millet to the United States Appeals Court for Washington D.C.

While the GOP’s moves to block Watt and Millet are part of a larger ploy by Republicans on Capitol Hill to block any and all of the president’s nominees for a variety of reasons, Senate Democrats may now decide to bypass the 60-vote majority needed to overcome a filibuster by employing the so-called “nuclear option.” If Democrats move forward with this strategy, they will change Senate rules so nominees can be confirmed with a 51-vote majority, not the current 60 votes needed to thwart a filibuster.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) made it clear in July 2013 that the nuclear option will remain on the table if Senate Republicans continue to block presidential appointees. After a making a deal in which Democrats dropped filibuster reform and Republicans agreed to approve Tom Perez as labor secretary, along with several other nominees, Reid told the group Organizing for Action that the nuclear option “can always come back.”

At this point, the tactic appears to be on the table. Vice President Joe Biden, who attended the confirmation hearing in his role as president of the Senate, told reporters that changing the filibuster rules is “worth considering.” He later added: “Mel Watt is absolutely, totally, thoroughly qualified, and it’s a gigantic disappointment.”

Senate Democrats reacted with “sadness” to the blocking of Rep. Watt’s confirmation, perhaps because, as the Washington Post points out, no sitting member of Congress has been denied confirmation to a Cabinet position since before the Civil War.

Why now do Senate Republicans think it’s necessary to take these actions?

For some GOP senators, the decision to filibuster lies in partisan politics. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), for one, explained that his decision to move forward with the filibuster was rooted in his fear that the Democrat Watt will be open to future bailouts.

“America needs someone with technical expertise and experience to run Fannie and Freddie’s conservator and ensure that we don’t repeat the same mistakes that led to the last financial crisis,” McConnell said. “And taxpayers need someone who will protect against future bailouts. This is the second FHFA nominee that President Obama has sent who did not meet those standards.”

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) similarly said, “He is a good man up for the wrong job.”

Blocking Millet was another exercise of the minority’s power. Among the judges on the court who regularly hear cases, the U.S. Appeals Court is currently split evenly along party lines, with four judges appointed by Republicans and four by Democrats. There are also semi-retired judges on the court, the majority of whom were appointed by Republicans. The court, however, has three vacant seats, which the president has the power to fill, provided his nominees are approved by the Senate.

Senate Republicans argue there is no need to fill the three vacant seats because the court has a light caseload. They’ve also accused the president of trying to pack the court with Democrats as a partisan political move.

Democrats, on the other hand, point out that the United States Appeals Court for Washington D.C. is second only to the Supreme Court in terms of its position in the judiciary system, and it’s important to appoint judges to the vacant seats. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) views the filibuster by Senate Republicans as another detrimental partisan ploy by the GOP.  “The judiciary is too important to play partisan games with,” Feinstein said. “And that’s exactly what’s going on here.”

AFP Photo/Jewel Samad

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Copyright 2013 The National Memo
  • docb

    They are not to be trusted..NUKES IT IS!

  • Stuart

    You know that if Republicans gain the Senate, the first thing they will do is go nuclear. Better that Democrats do it first, to minimize the damage Republicans will do later.

  • tiredofitall

    I would say that when things that don’t violate principle come up, the democrats should ask themselves what would the republicans do if the shoe was on the other foot when these things come up and go for it. If the day ever happens that the republicans hold sway in the government, the democrats will have to behave just as the current party or American won’t be American anymore

  • TZToronto

    The way this is supposed to work is that the President makes the nomination, the Senate advises (after reviewing the qualifications of the nominee), and then consents. The basis for consent or rejection should not be political. Is the nominee qualified? That’s about it. . . . Let’s look a a recent Republican nominee–Brownie, the horse guy. Was he qualified to head FEMA? Did he get a pass from the Senate? Here are two qualified nominees who are being blocked because (1) they’ve been appointed by a Democratic President or (2) they’ve been appointed by this Democratic President.

    • Sand_Cat

      I don’t agree that the purpose of Senate review of candidates is to decide only if the candidate is “qualified,” unless we include sanity and a reasonably fair-minded approach and a commitment to honestly interpreting the law fairly, but I do agree that the minority should not rule the country, not only in approval of judicial candidates, but in the passage of laws. Devices such as the filibuster – intended to prevent appointment of extreme partisans – become counterproductive when those allowed to wield them are themselves so extreme as to make even the most moderate of centrists look like “the far left” to them. Even worse is the use of the procedure to block appointments for reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with the candidate.

      • midway54

        They will retain that power because of the success that the Gilded Age II plutocrats, owners of the media and political institutions, aided and abetted by their despicable propagandists, are having through exploitation of Christian religion and the flag that works into a frenzy the ignorant, malicious, vulnerable dupes found centered in huge numbers in the South and to a lesser extent in the Rocky Mountain states, who reliably run off and vote rightwing stooges into office every cycle..

  • Sand_Cat

    When in the HELL are the Democrats going to learn? How many times must they be stabbed in the back before they realize that GOP promises are worse than worthless? The “gentlemen’s agreement” to be more reasonable about filibuster was made with the man who was first to announce that all of the people’s business, their needs, their visions for the kind of life they wanted and the kind of country they wanted, all of this was to take second place to getting the guy with the wrong color skin out of the White House after – at most – one term. To do this, the GOP was completely indifferent to the suffering of even veterans and active service people and their families, along with everyone else; only that one object mattered.
    To say I was flabbergasted, astounded, enraged, when I heard that once again, Harry Reid had made a non-binding deal with these scum when he could have actually done something about the rule of the Senate minority and their House confederates is to not even come remotely close to describing my feelings. WHEN WILL THESE IDIOTS LEARN???

  • arch725

    Harry Reid, you are the one who is going to make or break the Democratic Party next year. You need to put the LYING Mitch McConnell to his word, because if you don’t, the Republicans have beat you again through lying. Bring out the “nuclear option”!!!!!! Don’t let one other nominee be stopped by the lying party.

    • 324516

      guess what guys we democrats . We beleive in america we take the pain and the injustices that have gone on before by those who came before. Us to heart. their thing was that if it was right then it would win out. They didn,t like to go to war because they knew that it in war their could be nothing left standing .This is what we beleive .look at the wars that was led buy a democrat civil, ww2 korea frist part nam total defeat of our emeny then look at those that was headed by a republican graneda ,second part nam 1st and 2st desert wars. What i saying guys is this we have to tell our congress men and women and our senators thats it time to do what they must do to save our country. We know that the republican party thats in wasington today is not the party that it was so. it needs to be destoryed completely. We must vote at every level of the govt. not just for the pres. but also for the dogcatcher and every thing in between there can be know mercy given for you see they the republican party of today isn,t given us any

  • charleo1

    “So, we’re saying, if we can give developers and builders incentives to cut down on the regulatory barriers that are faced in this country, then we might be able to address the needs of affordable housing.”
    Alphonso Jackson

    Alphonso Jackson was Bush’s pick to run the Housing Authority. (2005-2008)
    And Lord knows, if the Bush Administration discovered a regulatory barrier,
    they were out there at the crack of dawn, tearing it down. Right up to the day
    they had to bailout all the losers after their three year, non stop, gambling binge.
    So yes, Senator McConnell, we need to be sure we don’t make the same
    mistakes. That’s why you filibustered the Financial Reform Law, and voted
    aganist it, along with every other Republican in Congress. Because you were
    so concerned Obama would appoint a Democrat, and they would be more likely
    to agree to a bailout. Do they think we have no memories at all?