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October 20, 2017

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Senate’s filibuster deal is no long-term fix

Republican and Democratic senators are ringing the bells of victory over their deal to confirm seven executive nominees in exchange for leaving the minority’s filibuster power intact.

But there are no long-term guarantees in the deal to prevent senators from reaching similar impasses in the future.

“They’re not sacrificing their right to filibuster, and we for damn sure aren’t (sacrificing) our right to change the rules if necessary,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday.

“We still will be dealing with controversial nominees in the way that controversial nominees inevitably produce a great debate,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday. “And all the options available to the minority remain intact.”

Under the terms of the agreement, the Republican minority will help facilitate cloture on the nominations of Richard Cordray, nominee to head the National Labor Relations Board — whose nomination advanced on a 71 to 29 vote in the Senate on Tuesday; Tom Perez, nominee for Labor secretary; Gina McCarthy, nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency; and Mark Gaston Pearce, chairman of the National Labor Relations Board.

In exchange, President Barack Obama will nominate two fresh individuals of his choosing to join the National Labor Relations Board in place of Sharon Block and Richard Griffin, whom Obama appointed without the advice and consent of the Senate during a period he claimed the Senate was in recess — but the Republican minority, and the courts, say the Senate clearly was not.

“I think that crisis has been averted,” McConnell said.

Just days ago, Reid was proclaiming on the Senate floor and the Sunday talk shows that a rules change was the only way to circumvent endemic obstructionism in the Senate that had kept Obama from being able to “have his team.”

A much tamer-sounding Reid seemed to dismiss his former conviction in those sentiments as he matter-of-factly defended his choice to back off the threat to avail himself of the “nuclear option” — by simple majority, having the Senate Democrats vote to change the Senate rules and invalidate use of the 60-vote, procedural filibuster on executive nominations.

“We accomplished this. Does that mean it will last forever? I don’t know about that,” Reid said. “We got a yes. … We’re taking the yes.”

Meanwhile, McConnell accused reporters of “try(ing) to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory” when asked whether the short-term nature of the deal would change anything for the long term.

“A high level of collegiality on a bipartisan basis was achieved as a result of last night,” McConnell said. “So put this down as progress in the right direction.”

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