Harry Reid speaks at a press conference in Washington on June 5, 2009. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Harry Reid threatened to employ the “nuclear option” to end filibuster abuses, and the world did not end.
In fact, despite all the absurd rhetoric that flew around as the Senate majority leader prepared to implement a majority-rule standard regarding presidential appointments, Reid’s gambit yielded some positive results. Under an agreement reached Tuesday morning, Republicans would stop blocking votes on five key nominations, including those of Richard Cordray to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Gina McCarthy to serve as EPA administrator, Fred Hochberg to serve as president of the Export-Import Bank and Thomas Perez to serve as secretary of labor.
By midday Tuesday, the Senate had already voted to allow formal consideration of Cordray, with seventy-one senators agreeing to schedule a confirmation vote.
But the path to making the Senate a fully functional legislative chamber is less clear than the inside-the-Beltway celebrants—some in the Senate, most in the media—would have Americans believe.
As part of the compromise, Republicans appear to have secured veto power over the nominations of two qualified nominees for the National Labor Relations Board, Sharon Block and Richard Griffin. Republicans have been determined to keep Block and Griffin off the board since President Obama’s decision to use his recess-appointment power to put them there provoked a bitter court fight. Under Tuesday’s deal in the Senate, Obama would withdraw the nominations of Block and Griffin and send two nominees to the Senate for quick consideration and votes. (Under the agreement, Republicans will allow a third NLRB nominee, Mark Pearce, to get a straight up-or-down confirmation vote.)
What this means is that virulently anti-labor Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, is still calling some shots when it comes to the NLRB, and that’s absurdly unfair to Block and Griffin. Labor leaders, such as Communications Workers of America union President Larry Cohen,were angered by the move. Cohen complained that Block and Griffin were “definitely tossed under the bus.”