Senate averts 'nuclear option,' confirms presidential nominee
July 16th, 2013
07:15 PM ET
9 months ago

Senate averts 'nuclear option,' confirms presidential nominee

Updated at 8:18 p.m. ET on 7/16

Washington (CNN) –
Senators reached a tentative bipartisan deal to avert the so-called "nuclear option" on Senate rules, a change that would have drawn Republican ire and stalled major legislation.

At issue was what Democrats call unnecessary and lengthy delays of seven of President Barack Obama's nominees.

While Democrats control the chamber, they need Republicans to reach the 60-vote threshold necessary for getting anything through.

Senate rules allow for one member to hold up any piece of legislation or appointment, making the filibuster a powerful political weapon for Republicans in a sharply partisan political climate.

Under the deal, Republicans agreed to lift them and allow confirmation votes, while Democrats said they would withdraw two contentious nominees to the National Labor Relations Board.

Obama responded with two new nominations: Nancy Schiffer and Kent Hirozawa.

Obama put the original appointees in office during a period when he says the Senate was in recess.

But Republicans who have chafed at the composition and decision making of the labor board, held up confirmation votes for months.

The NLRB has been a political lightning rod with conservatives angry over its composition and what it considers a pro-union agenda at the expense of business.

As evidence of the agreement, the Senate confirmed Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The agency was created after the 2008 financial crisis and Cordray has been running it on an acting basis.

More votes are likely on other pending nominees.

Obama said he was pleased with the development.

"Over the last two years, I've nominated leaders to fill important positions required to do the work of the American people, only to have those positions remain unfilled – not because the nominees were somehow unqualified, but for purely political reasons," he said in a statement.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had threatened to take the "nuclear option" to change the rules in order to prevent filibusters of executive branch nominations. This would have allowed them to be confirmed on a simple majority vote of 51.

Reid had warned Republicans if they continued blocking some of Obama's Cabinet and agency picks, he would make the drastic move without their consent.

Such a move would have brought sharp opposition from Republicans, who have threatened to block legislation as a consequence.

Any use of the "nuclear option" would have stalled passage of several important items moving through Congress, like tax reform, judicial nominations, government spending bills and a debt ceiling increase.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the White House "was not involved in negotiating" the tentative deal but provided information and answered questions.

CNN's Ashley Killough, Lisa Desjardins and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.


Filed under: Senate
soundoff (46 Responses)
  1. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    In exchange, the president would have to agree to withdraw the two NLRB recess nominees: Sharon Block and Richard Griffin. The NLRB, which hears and rules on labor disputes, is one of the most politically polarized institutions in Washington.

    Should the Senate go ahead with the nuclear option, the poisoned atmosphere could stall passage of several important items moving through Congress like tax reform, judicial nominations, government spending bills and a debt ceiling increase.
    ----------------------------------------------–
    The President's nominees shouldn't be held up this long nor should there be a compromise on who is acceptable and not acceptable. This is the obstruction that is pissing Americans off. This is frickin' ridiculous. Go nuclear on them Sen. Reid. I double dare them to sit on their lazy behinds and not pass anything. Test them!!!

    July 16, 2013 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  2. simplyput

    Not to mention that minority rights are protected by the senate, and the *nuclear option* would destroy that aspect of one of our branches of govt. Thanks, Mr Reid. You had me worried.

    July 16, 2013 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  3. just sayin

    over 1500 people have been confirmed by the senate, only 4 nominees are being objected to by the republicans. democrats just want to force everybody through and should not be able to do that. democrats forced obamacare down our throats and look how that worked out for us. now even the democrats and their union backers are choking on it. no more far left policies, no mor efar left nominees. got that democrats?

    July 16, 2013 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  4. Data Driven

    I so don't care about whatever weak-tea deal Harry Weak-Tea Reid has worked out with McConnell. Since when are secret weekend deals made by Senators about Executive appointments even Constitutional? The Senate is supposed to advise, not usurp Executive prerogatives.

    July 16, 2013 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  5. Rudy NYC

    I can guarantee one thing. Should Republicans ever gain control of the Senate, one of the first things that they will do wil be to change the rules to their advantage. They've been tilting the playing all over the country already, from gerrymandered districts to Voter ID laws.

    July 16, 2013 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  6. Rick McDaniel

    Reid is a corrupt person, who cannot be trusted, in any way.

    July 16, 2013 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  7. Rudy NYC

    just sayin

    over 1500 people have been confirmed by the senate, only 4 nominees are being objected to by the republicans. democrats just want to force everybody through and should not be able to do that. democrats forced obamacare down our throats and look how that worked out for us. now even the democrats and their union backers are choking on it. no more far left policies, no mor efar left nominees. got that democrats?
    -----------------------
    That is an alternate reality if I've ever heard one. Don't fall for the bait and switch to Obamacare, folks.

    July 16, 2013 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  8. Name jk. Sfl. GOP conservatives,the garbage of America.

    Screw the GOP , do it Reid , Time to leave the GOP obstructionist behind, who needs them, they have accomplished nothing in five years and will be out of power after mid term elections and won't be missed by most Americans!!!!!

    July 16, 2013 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  9. Data Driven

    @just sayin,

    Obama won two presidential elections with clear majorities. Get that?

    July 16, 2013 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  10. just sayin

    Data Driven
    @just sayin,
    Obama won two presidential elections with clear majorities. Get that?
    -–

    he was elected president, not dictator. 535 other representatives were also elected with clear majorities. those are the people that legislate, not obama. he has to work with them and not try and steam roll them with his far left agenda. they do not work for him or report to him. they represent the people that put them in office. when are the far lefties going to grasp the concept of a democratic republic? never it appears.

    July 16, 2013 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  11. Dale

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and several others both parties are the reasons why Government is Broken, "" Big Unions and Big Contractors Own Them "". Get them reelected with their big money,
    Need to get rid of these Corrupt Crooks in our Government.
    Need Term Limits, two Terms only!
    They have been in that office for so long; they have Accumulated a lot of Influential Powers by the People they Know, “Unions and Contractors”.

    In many ways they are more powerful than the President of the United States.

    Same goes for Congress Term Limits for them as well.

    July 16, 2013 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  12. Rudy NYC

    I don't like the deal. It will be difficult to find someone to fill the posts till the end of 2014. These critical posts will remain empty, which effectively shut them down. Shutting down the NLRB is a windfuall for the GOP because it weakens unions by nuetralizing the enforcement arm of labor in this country. Think about all of the anti-union legislation Republicans have passed. Get ready for a whole lot more.

    July 16, 2013 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  13. California Gary

    There he goes again.......trusting the GOP to uphold their end of the "deal"......how many times is Reid going to fall for this? He should just go to the "nuke" option and be done with it. The GOP can't be trusted to honor their deals.......they have demonstrated this before on the filibuster issue.

    July 16, 2013 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  14. Rich Parks

    The minority has abused their protected rights in the Senate, (which were not originally in the constitution for all those who fall back on the constitution when it suits their agenda this week) The current minority have effectively gamed this system to such a degree that the majority has to pull this nuclear option stunt. If the new labor relation board candidates are not confirmed by sometime in Aug. then the whole agency can be dissolved? Who knows what games the GOP’s have up their sleeves for delaying these new selections knowing this time imperative deadline. An entire agency that protects ALL labor, and not just UNION labor, hangs in the balance. I doubt the Senate Rep’s could resist allowing this opportunity to pass them by. What might be worse is the fact that all the old recess appointed members decisions on the NLRB board might now be ruled illegal, as their appointments were, this might be as detrimental to the agency as it being dissolved. I think the nuclear option with regard to executive appointments is a reasonable alterative to Republican (or any minority) instigated gridlock. I think the filibuster should be a stand and debate process as it was 1st envisioned as a change to the Senate. It had little teeth then, as members could still just let Senators talk themselves into a coma, then still vote. The Senate enhanced this process well beyond the founding fathers omission to the constitution, by making the filibuster a call-in; more permanent process.

    July 16, 2013 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  15. Fair is Fair

    California Gary

    There he goes again.......trusting the GOP to uphold their end of the "deal"......how many times is Reid going to fall for this? He should just go to the "nuke" option and be done with it.
    ------
    Yes, by all means Reid, go nuclear. Go ahead. Double-dog dare.

    July 16, 2013 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  16. Anonymous

    This is the obstruction that is pissing Americans off. This is frickin' ridiculous. Go nuclear on them Sen. Reid. I double dare them to sit on their lazy behinds and not pass anything. Test them!!!

    --------------------------------------

    Look up what Harry had to say in 2005 when he was in the minority and the Republicans threatened the nuke option because the Dems were holding up Repubs nominations.

    July 16, 2013 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  17. Data Driven

    @just sayin,

    What "legislation" are you talking about? This is about a handful of Senators usurping the Executive preorogative of making Federal appointments. They are WAY out of bounds, here. They're supposed to advise, not make secret weekend deals about Senate rule changes that are incumbent upon who Mitch McConnell will accept or not in those Federal appointments. If anyone is being dictatorial, it's Messrs. Reid, McCain, and McConnell.

    July 16, 2013 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  18. 1108

    Look up what Harry had to say in 2005 when he was in the minority and the Repubs threatened the Nuke Option because the Dems were holding up Bush's nominations.

    July 16, 2013 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  19. asdrel

    I beleive the "nuclear option" should be used. I feel it is a violation of the principles of democracy upon which our nation was founded when 41 Senators can thwart the other 59.

    July 16, 2013 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  20. Rudy NYC

    just sayin wrote:

    he was elected president, not dictator. 535 other representatives were also elected with clear majorities. those are the people that legislate, not obama. he has to work with them and not try and steam roll them with his far left agenda. they do not work for him or report to him. they represent the people that put them in office. when are the far lefties going to grasp the concept of a democratic republic? never it appears.
    ----------------------
    Seriously? Whatever happened to "Country First" among Republicans?

    July 16, 2013 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  21. rs

    Rick McDaniel

    Reid is a corrupt person, who cannot be trusted, in any way.
    ____________________
    Like McConnell ("I will make Obama a one-term President") is some sort of choir boy? When is the GOP going to actually DO SOMETHING in the Congress? Do these idiots actually think doing nothing makes 'rm look good?

    July 16, 2013 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  22. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    Look up what Harry had to say in 2005 when he was in the minority and the Repubs threatened the Nuke Option because the Dems were holding up Bush's nominations.
    ------------------------------------------
    One name: Harriet Myers

    July 16, 2013 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  23. Jay

    The folks here complaining about GOP obstructionism should review their history. This little pas de deux happens every time the 'other' party gains control. Everyone loves rules and regulations until they have to live by them, then suddenly it's 'the other guy's' fault that things are such a mess. The nuclear option has been threatened before. A back-door compromise has been reached before. Everyone just calm down and carry on politics as usual in Washington.

    July 16, 2013 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  24. rs

    "This is the obstruction that is pissing Americans off. This is frickin' ridiculous. Go nuclear on them Sen. Reid. I double dare them to sit on their lazy behinds and not pass anything. Test them!!!"

    _ I tend to agree. Yes, the Senate should not undo decades of well sorted agreements, but when one party simply refuses to engage at all, what is the solution? Sure, it is very easy to say "well, at some point they'll be the majority party..." but at this rate of burn the GOP will blow itself apart long befor they ever regain majority status.
    We WANT a functioning government. At what point do we simply declare the GOP "traitors" and move on without them?

    July 16, 2013 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  25. Rich Parks

    Ya Rudy NYC, the Senate Rep’s allowed 1500 next to worthless, minor, nearly inconsequential appointments. When it comes to heads of agencies the GOP dosen’t like, they shut them right down, and effectively decapitate the agency they also seek to under-fund in the House of Representatives. Your being statistically played Rudy by extreme manipulation of statistics handlers use to demigod and make the sheep they lead sound semi-credible; allowing them to regurgitate without thinking. Reid manipulates the number of filibusters to some degree also. I don’t believe that sheepish number either. The greatest thing a politician every did was get his constituents to believe only his half of the truth exists….well that and gerrymandering (redistricting) as then who cares what his constituents think, he only has to worry about the GOP backing another candidate in the primary.

    July 16, 2013 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
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