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 Politics Archive 2014

Senate Democrats get 16 of President Obama’s nominees confirmed before the year’s end
by Nathan’ette Burdine: January 31, 2014

The Senate Democrats have been successful in using the new filibuster rules to get 16 of President Obama’s nominees confirmed and one pending nomination before the start of the new year.

Before the Senate left for the Christmas holidays, key confirmations were made to the Department of Homeland Security and the IRS.  Jeh Johnson was confirmed as the secretary of Homeland Security and John Koskinen was confirmed as the IRS commissioner.

There were also judges confirmed to the federal district courts in New York, Washington D.C., Florida, Montana, and New Hampshire.  The one pending nomination was the confirmation of Janet Yellen as the chairwoman of the Federal Reserve.

On December 20, 2013, the Senate voted 59-34 to invoke cloture and to move Janet Yellen’s confirmation as the chairwoman of the Federal Reserve to a vote on the Senate floor.  And on January 6, 2014, Janet Yellen was confirmed as the chairwoman of the Federal Reserve.

On November 21, 2013, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) used the “nuclear option” in order to change the filibuster rules.

The Senate voted 52-48 to lower the number from 60 votes to 51 votes needed in order to override a filibuster.  The rule change applies to the president’s appointees.

The rule change does not apply to legislation or Supreme Court nominations.  Some Republicans argue that politics is why Reid decided to use the “nuclear option” in order to change the filibuster rules.

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) was quoted in a November 21, 2013, press release as saying, “This is very simply another partisan political power grab to permit the majority to do whatever it wants to do.”

According to the U.S. Senate “Art and History” section, the last time the filibuster rules were changed was in 1975.  The votes needed to filibuster a bill were lowered from 67 votes to 60 votes.

After Reid became the Senate majority leader in 2008, he promised to leave the 60 vote filibuster rule in place.

According to The Washington Free Beacon, Tom Daschle asked Reid if he would ever consider using the nuclear option.

Reid responded, “As long as I am the Leader, the answer’s no.  I think we should just forget that.  That is a black chapter in the history of the Senate.”

In his November 21, 2013, press release, Reid stated that he decided to use the “nuclear option” because of the partisanship in Congress.

Reid said, “During this Congress-the 113th Congress-the United States Senate has wasted an unprecedented amount of time on procedural hurdles and partisan obstruction.  As a result, the work of this country goes undone.”

Reid expressed concern that 20 of President Obama’s district court nominees hadn’t been confirmed, and that the Republicans were using the filibuster to stall Chuck Hagel’s confirmation as the secretary of Defense.

After 12 days of having his confirmation stalled, Chuck Hagel was confirmed as the secretary of Defense on February 26, 2013.  And seven district court nominees were confirmed after the filibuster rules were changed.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) dismissed Senator Reid’s criticism of the Republicans.  According to McConnell, the filibuster rules were changed so the Democrats could advance President Obama’s agenda.

McConnell was quoted in a November 21, 2013, press release as saying, “In short, unlike the first two years of the Obama Administration, there’s now a legislative check on the President.  And the Administration doesn’t much like checks and balances.  So it wants to circumvent the people’s representatives with an aggressive regulatory agenda, and our Democrat colleagues want to facilitate that by ‘filling up’ a court that will rule on his agenda-a court that doesn’t even have enough work to do.”

Reid noted that the district court judges and presidential appointees’ confirmations were evidence that partisan politics was at work.

Reid was quoted in a December 19, 2013, press release as saying,  “As always, there is an easy and a hard way that we legislators can take one is to move.  The other is to obstruct.  So far, my Republican colleagues have obstructed and outlined to do so.  The choice to obstruct is theirs.”

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