The Senate Thursday voted to amend the chamber's rules so that presidential nominees for judicial and executive branch positions could no longer be blocked by filibuster. Democrats had long been threatening such a move after a host of recent nominations were blocked by Republicans.
The Senate voted 52 to 48 to approve the "nuclear option," meaning the nominees can now be approved by a majority vote rather than the 60 votes required to break a filibuster. The change does not affect the ability to filibuster legislation or Supreme Court nominations.
Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada had been considering changing Senate rules after a series of Republican filibusters of President Barack Obama's judicial nominees. Three of the president's nominees for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit have been blocked due to Republican filibusters.
Republicans this year also blocked nominees to head the Environmental Protection Agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Labor Department and several other executive branch vacancies.
Reid said that Republicans had the right to oppose the nominees, but must do so by voting against them in a full floor vote rather than blocking any such vote from ever taking place. "These nominees deserve at least an up or down vote, yes or no," Reid said. "But Republican filibusters deny them a fair vote, any vote, and deny the president his team."
Republicans opposed the rule change, warning Democrats that they will regret the move once the president's party is no longer in charge of the chamber. The GOP also warns that it brings the chamber closer to eliminating the filibuster on all votes, including legislative ones.
"You'll regret this and you might regret it even sooner than you might think," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said.
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