Senate leaders avert nuclear option

By TJ Mayes

Senate leaders  agreed today on a series of compromise measures that will avert a procedural “nuclear option.” The Democratic leadership was prepared to deploy a series of parliamentary tactics to eliminate the use of the filibuster in confirmation votes of executive branch appointments.

The terms of the deal are plain enough:

  • President Barack Obama would pull the nominations of Sharon Block and Richard Griffin to the National Labor Relations Board
  • Republicans will give up-or-down votes on seven nominees to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the National Labor Relations Board before the August recess

Ubiquitous use of the filibuster to prevent confirmation of executive appointees may appeal to a base that’s willing to resort to any tactic to delay the implementation of President Obama’s agenda, but it is rooted in a flawed interpretation of the advice and consent function.

President Obama sought to remedy this problem by appointing Block and Griffin to the National Labor Relations Board during a pro forma Senate session. A federal court ruled that this was an impermissible use of the recess appointment power, and the Supreme Court has agreed to consider the matter.

The advice and consent function is one of the constitutional checks on the power of the executive branch. The Senate must confirm presidential nomination for many executive offices and the judiciary. Alexander Hamilton explained the rationale in Federalist No. 76:

It would be an excellent check upon a spirit of favoritism in the President, and would tend greatly to prevent the appointment of unfit characters from State prejudice, from family connection, from personal attachment, or from a view to popularity. In addition to this, it would be an efficacious source of stability in the administration.

The president should be given wide latitude in his or her picks for executive offices. As the New York Times put it:

Whether Republican or Democrat, a president should get a vote on executive appointments, giving nominees a chance to make a case to a simple majority that they are fit for office.

It is likely that the nuclear option was a bluff by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Senate Republicans are wrong to overuse the filibuster but that does not give Senate Democrats license to change the rules of the game.

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Posted by on July 16, 2013. Filed under National Politics,Recent News,Top News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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