Organized labor scored a huge victory yesterday when Republicans who had been blocking President Obama’s radical nominees lost their nerve and reached a deal with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to allow confirmation votes to proceed.
The backroom political deal preserves — at least for now– the filibuster in the Senate.
As usual, Republicans got nothing in return.
Egged on by union bosses, Reid had vowed to execute a controversial parliamentary maneuver called the nuclear option in order to allow filibustered executive branch nominations to go forward and be approved with a simple majority of senators. (Republicans called it the constitutional option when they were in the majority in the Senate.) Under longtime Senate rules, the chamber will not normally proceed to a vote on legislation unless 60 senators or more vote to end debate. If the Senate is considering a change in its rules, the threshold rises to 67.
The nuclear option procedural playbook calls for the Senate’s presiding officer, who is always going to be a Democrat as long as that party is in the majority in that chamber, to rule that instead of a supermajority only a simple majority of senators is required to cut off debate. If a majority of the senators votes to uphold the presiding officer, his or her interpretation of the rules becomes a precedent. By this means the filibuster rule could be weakened or even abolished, a development that in the current environment would make it easi...