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Senate Filibuster Watch (Update: Richard Cordray sworn in as first director of CFPB)

Today, votes on the confirmation of 7 of President Obama’s executive nominees will take place in the Senate.

Update: Cloture vote expected at 11am Eastern

Update 2: Cordray nomination advances. Senate to vote on other nominees now.

Update 3: Other nominees to be voted on “next week or the week after”, per Harry Reid

Update 4 (7-17): Richard Cordray confirmed and sworn in. President Obama spoke from the White House this morning (White House live stream)

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) was in the audience.

THIS is a BHD:

Update 5 (7/17): Tom Perez nomination for Labor advances on a vote of 60-40.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), has told the Republican minority that if they attempt to block the vote on these confirmations, he will change the Senate rules to only require 51 votes to end cloture on executive nominations.

This is more than in-the-weeds political maneuvering. As Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) stated yesterday, Republicans are attempting to nullify democratically passed laws. For Republicans, elections don’t have any consequences because they can thwart the will of the people, who elected President Obama … twice, by requiring a 60 vote threshold for executive appointments.  

Here is what is at stake.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) will cease to function when the current chairman’s term expires in August. An agency in place for 70 years whose purpose is to protect American workers will be shuttered.

The Consumer Financial Protections Bureau (CFPB), set up to protect consumers in the wake of the abuses that came to light from the global financial meltdown caused by the recklessness of the Bush administration, will continue to be hampered by the lack of a confirmed director.

Senators met last night to try to iron out their differences but they adjourned with no agreement:

A 3 1/2-hour long meeting of all senators ended Monday night without a resolution to the impasse over stalled presidential nominees, bringing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) one step closer to the nuclear option.

Reid said after the meeting in the Old Senate Chamber that there was no deal reached but that talks would continue. Don Stewart, a spokesperson for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), said “discussions will continue” because “a clear bipartisan majority in the meeting believed the Leaders ought to find a solution.”

The Senate will be called to order this morning and the votes will be taken.

Will the Republicans blink? Will Harry Reid blink?

At the end of a three-and-one-half hour closed-door session, no deal was reached on changing Senate filibuster rules. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told reporters, “We’ve had a very good conversation” and added that talks between the party leaders would continue into the night.

Leader Reid has indicated that Senate Democrats may use the “nuclear option” on votes scheduled for this morning. Democrats have threatened to change Senate rules in order to hold a simple majority vote on the nomination of Richard Cordray, head of the Consumer Protection Agency, and six of President Obama’s nominees for cabinet and other positions facing Republican filibusters.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) asked for the joint caucus meeting last week after a day of wrangling between Senate Democrat and Republican leaders over how to proceed with seven of President Obama’s cabinet and other positions previously blocked by Republican Senators.

Live at 10am (ET) on C-SPAN2


Editors Note: Feel free to use this as an open news thread.

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  1. Its the Supreme Court Stupid

    be sworn in at the opening of business today and will apparently get to cast his first votes on these cloture motions.

  2. The cloture votes are not expected until 11am Eastern.

    The Republicans are apparently saying that the NLRB nominations are “tainted” because they came via recess appointments (and were later ruled invalid by the DC circuit).

    However, Republicans are also saying that Cordray’s nomination will likely get enough votes to proceed … although he was also appointed via the same method.

    As Brian Beutler pointed out:

    The CSPAN-2 feed (can’t be embedded) will show the swearing in of Ed Markey soon.

  3. Its the Supreme Court Stupid

    two appointments go through by August 27, the NLRB will cease to have a quorum and will cease to function.  Any deal MUST include some way to keep the NLRB up and functioning.

  4. NLRB

    In the fall of 1934, Senator Wagner began revising his labor disputes bill, determined to build on the experience of the two earlier NIRA boards and to find a solution to the enforcement problem that had plagued them. In February 1935, Wagner introduced the National Labor Relations Act in the Senate. The Wagner Bill proposed to create a new independent agency-the National Labor Relations Board, made up of three members appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate-to enforce employee rights rather than to mediate disputes. It gave employees the right, under Section 7, to form and join unions, and it obligated employers to bargain collectively with unions selected by a majority of the employees in an appropriate bargaining unit. The measure endorsed the principles of exclusive representation and majority rule, provided for enforcement of the Board’s rulings, and covered most workers in industries whose operations affected interstate commerce.

    Rights Protected:

    Employee Rights

    Employees covered by the NLRA are guaranteed the right to form, join, decertify, or assist a labor organization, and to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, or to refrain from such activities. Employees may also join together to improve terms and conditions of employment without a union.

    Protected Concerted Activity

    The law we enforce gives employees the right to act together to try to improve their pay and working conditions or fix job-related problems, even if they aren’t in a union.

    Employer/Union Rights and Obligations

    The law forbids employers from interfering with employees in the exercise of rights to form, join or assist a labor organization for collective bargaining, or from working together to improve terms and conditions of employment, or refraining from any such activity. Similarly, labor organizations may not interfere with employees in the exercise of these rights.

  5. Rumors are that the minority PROMISES to let the NLRB nominations go through NEXT TIME. And if President Obama will appoint two new people … just not the ones he already chose.

    I hope that is not the deal. It has no teeth and they are relying on the word of Republicans.

    Why does this come to mind?

  6. Nuclear Option Averted: Senators Strike Tentative Deal To Confirm Nominees Without Reforming Filibuster

    Republicans would confirm nominees to all seven positions, a big concession for the GOP. But in a concession for Democrats, they would replace two recess-appointed nominees to the National Labor Relations Board – Sharon Block and Richard Griffin – with new nominees under the following condition: Republicans pledge to confirm any two replacements by President Obama to the board by Aug. 27.

    I think this means that Block and Griffin are confirmed but that they will be interim appointments of some sort and that President Obama must replace them.

    If that is not the deal, and the NLRB appointments are not confirmed today, then Harry Reid is a chump.

  7. Who will blink?

    * Senate Republicans – 2 votes (40%)

    * The American People – 2 votes (40%)

    * Harry Reid – 1 votes (20%)

    Total votes: 5

    Did the American people blink or did they get poked in the eye?

    I guess we have to wait to find out.

  8. The opinion pieces post-confrontation are mixed.

    First Ezra Klein thinks it was a win for the Democrats but with a caveat:

    The Senate didn’t actually go nuclear today. But the majority took out a nuke, put it on the table, and made clear they can detonate it whenever they feel like.

    It’s clear now that Reid will change the rules if he believes it necessary. But so too will McConnell. If Republicans retake the Senate in 2014 and the presidency in 2016, there’s no way Majority Leader McConnell will permit Democrats to routinely filibuster or otherwise obstruct President Christie’s nominees. If they do, he’ll throw Reid’s words back in their face and make the change Reid threatened to make today.

    The result is that the minority’s ability to filibuster executive-branch nominees was weakened, even if it wasn’t fully eliminated.


    The headline at ThinkProgress was Republicans Cave


    Brian Beutler at TPM thinks the Republicans were hoisted on their own petard because now Cordray’s stint at the CFPB will run through 2018 and overlap into the next presidency (if they had confirmed him last year, it would have allowed a possible Republican president to name his own director).

    In another piece, Beutler says it signifies the further decline of the Senate:

    This fight wasn’t about life-long judges but rather term-limited executive branch nominees. More to the point, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and National Labor Relations Board need their nominees confirmed for their agencies to function properly – or at all. So in addition to the insult and annoyance and wasted time, the envelope in this case had actually been pushed off the table. The consequences of these filibusters for future policy would have been immediate and very concrete. Nullification by parliamentary process. […]

    … the fact that the threat itself is effectively a tool for reversing increasingly egregious acts of obstruction reflects very poorly on the Senate itself.


    Another TPM writer, Sahil Kapur, thinks that it signified a McConnell win: McConnell Loses Filibuster Battle But He’s Winning The War

    At the end of the day, the 60-vote Senate is still the norm. The minority retains the ability to obstruct with no credible nuclear threat when it comes to most matters.

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Democrats proved this week they have the leverage to make sure a president’s nominees to executive positions can be confirmed with a 51-vote majority. But in conversations with TPM during recent weeks, pro-reform Democrats and progressives privately conceded that they lack the votes to scale back the minority’s veto power over judicial nominations or bills.

    What it boils down to, after reading the various articles, is that both parties are keen on protecting the rights of the minority in the Senate. But now, in addition to the filibuster, there is a new tool available to the majority: the threat of the nuclear option. Only time will tell if it has enough of a deterrent effect to allow President Obama to choose government appointees who reflect his values.

  9. Lost in the stories of the filibuster and the nuclear option was what led to the confrontation over the NLRB appointments.

    In January, the DC court of appeals invalidated President Obama’s recess appoinments in the case Canning v NLRB. The administration appealed the case to the Supreme Court (where it becomes NLRB v Canning and is scheduled for arguments later this year. Case:

    Issue: (1) Whether the President’s recess-appointment power may be exercised during a recess that occurs within a session of the Senate, or is instead limited to recesses that occur between enumerated sessions of the Senate; (2) whether the President’s recess-appointment power may be exercised to fill vacancies that exist during a recess, or is instead limited to vacancies that first arose during that recess; and (3) whether the President’s recess-appointment power may be exercised when the Senate is convening every three days in pro forma sessions.

    Does this become moot? It seems like an important issue that should be addressed … but maybe not by the Roberts Court. If it is moot, does that require briefing?

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