Senate Minority Leader John McCain.
That’s how Democrats are gleefully spinning a significant cave from Republicans that avoided the drastic Senate rules change known as the “nuclear option.”
As they tell it, McCain convinced a handful of more moderate Republican senators to join him in agreeing to a deal that will lead to the smooth confirmation of seven of President Barack Obama’s Cabinet nominees. In doing so, he went against the public posturing of the actual Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell.
“McCain is the new minority leader for confirmations,” one Senate Democratic aide said. “The new normal is confirming nominees. And the wacko birds are not to be heard from — at least on this issue.”
Consider the nomination of Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The Senate voted on Tuesday to end debate on his nomination, bringing his confirmation to a final floor vote. And 17 Republican senators joined with every Democrat in moving the nomination along.
That’s a stark contrast from just February, when McConnell and 43 other Republican senators sent a letter to Obama saying they would never vote to approve any nominee to head the CFPB, unless significant changes were made to the agency. Republicans had blocked his confirmation since he was first appointed in July 2011, leading Obama to make a controversial recess appointment the following January. Because he was a recess appointment, Cordray’s tenure was set to expire at the end of this Congress.
Now, Cordray and four other key Obama nominations are set to be confirmed. The condition for Democrats and Obama is that he swap out two nominees to the National labour Relations Board — Sharon Block and Richard Griffin. But under the deal, Republicans have agreed to confirm these new picks by the end of July.
Democrats also win, because McConnell’s demand that Democrats agree to not threaten a future rule change on nominees was not part of the final deal. That means Democrats could still threaten to employ the “nuclear option” in the future, lessening the chances of prolonged Republican filibuster threats on executive nominees.
Democrats said that their caucus remained firm leading up to the potential “nuclear” threat — which was still on early Tuesday morning. They had the 51 votes necessary to invoke the nuclear option, something that hasn’t been the case in other filibuster-reform fights.
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