Democrats Set to Challenge Senate Filibuster Rules

Tuesday, 09 Jul 2013 03:40 PM

By Lisa Barron

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After a six-month stalemate over President Barack Obama's political nominees, Senate Democrats want to force confirmation votes on some of his most controversial appointments as early as this week.

If they don’t succeed, they plan to challenge the chamber's filibuster rules that allow the Republicans, the minority party in the upper chamber, to block action by requiring 60 votes, reports the New York Times.

Story continues below.

The current situation is "just unacceptable because if the executive branch can't function, then the nation can't respond to the big challenges it faces," Sen. Jeff Merkley, a Democrat from Oregon, told the newspaper.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada has referred to his past threats to change the filibuster rules with a simple majority vote of the chamber as the "nuclear option."

Reid has reportedly held off on forcing the issue until now over fears that it could impact negotiations over the Gang of Eight's immigration bill, which the Senate passed last month.

The rule change would be limited to appointments to federal agencies or cabinet posts and would not apply to legislation and judges.

But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has warned of the consequences, saying recently, "Day after day, I've been coming to the floor to remind the majority leader of the commitments he made to the American people in 2011 and again just a few months ago — that he would not break the rules of the Senate in order to change the rules of the Senate. That he would preserve the rights of the minority in this body. That he would not try to remake the Senate in the image of the House — something that could change our democracy in a fundamental way."

Republicans say the president has been too heavy-handed in making some of his appointments, including Richard Cordray as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and three of the five National Labor Relations Board nominees.

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