Senate Republicans Back Down From Blocking Presidential Appointments

Compromise Reached Before Filibuster Rules Drastically Changed

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By Glynn Wilson -

You see, Virginia, with the right kind of political pressure, there can be compromise and cooperation in Congress.

With Democrats on the verge of drastically changing Senate rules to block filibusters on executive branch nominees, Republicans relented on Tuesday in their obstruction tactics that have blocked votes on several of President Obama’s nominees for key cabinet and agency posts.

In the first confirmation vote after leaders of both parties announced a compromise agreement, the Senate approved Richard Cordray for director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau by a vote of 66-34. He was first nominated by Mr. Obama in July 2011, but Republicans were blocking his confirmation, well, because they could.

Other up or down votes are expected soon on Thomas Perez for secretary of labor, Gina McCarthy for administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and Fred Hochberg as president of the Export-Import Bank of the United States.

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

“We have now started a new era, I hope, a new normal here in the Senate” of increased bipartisan cooperation, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat, said in a statement Wednesday morning.

President Obama thanked senators from both parties on Tuesday for coming together as he appeared at the White House with Cordray.

“I also want to thank the Senate for agreeing to give my other nominees who’ve waited far too long the votes that they deserve,” Mr. Obama said. “These are all highly qualified men and women who are just ready to go to work for the American people.”

The president also said he expects more cooperation in the weeks ahead.

“I hope the Congress will build on this spirit of cooperation to advance other urgent middle-class priorities,” he said, like revamping immigration laws and keeping student loan interest rates from rising.

Republicans have also apparently agreed to vote on two new nominees for the National Labor Relations Board before Aug. 1 so the board will be able to operate with a quorum. After the Senate vote, President Obama nominated Nancy Schiffer, former AFL-CIO associate general counsel, and Kent Hirozawa, chief counsel to the NLRB Chairman Mark Pearce, to the board.

This comes as good news to organized labor and the environmental community in the U.S.

THURSDAY UPDATE – In a 60-40 cloture vote, the Senate ended debate on President Obama’s Labor Secretary nominee Tom Perez and a final vote is expected in the full Senate on Friday.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a statement earlier this year on Perez’s nomination that working men and women will be well served by President Obama’s choice of Tom Perez to lead the Department of Labor.

“Throughout his career, Perez has fought to level the playing field and create opportunities for working people, whether in the workplace, the marketplace or the voting booth. He has worked to eliminate discrimination in housing, provide access to education and health care, end hate crimes, crack down on employers who cheat workers out of wages and expand our democracy by protecting the fundamental right of every American to vote,” Trumka said. “In the 1990’s, he worked on the front lines of the effort to pass comprehensive immigration reform under the leadership of the great Senator Ted Kennedy — a job that will serve him well in today’s drive for commonsense immigration reform.”

We expect statements to be issued soon by the Sierra Club and others. We will add their responses to this story once they come in.

© 2013, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.

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