A threat to end long-standing United States Senate rules so that presidential executive branch nominees could be approved has been removed after Democrats and Republicans reached a compromise.
Sen. Deb Fischer, a Republican, says a proposal floated by Democrat Harry Reid of Nevada, the Senate leader, would have shut out Republicans from the traditional Senate role of advice and consent.
“I think Sen. Reid was trying to pave the way for a series of highly controversial presidential nominees by removing the ability of Senators to filibuster those executive nominations,” Fischer tells Nebraska reporters during a conference call.
Sen. Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, had proposed dropping the voting threshold to approve presidential executive branch nominees from 60 to 51. Reid threatened the use of the so-called “nuclear option” in response to a series of filibusters mounted by Republican Senators that has blocked a number of nominees made by President Barack Obama.
The Senate came to the brink until a compromise was reached to keep the super-majority threshold while allowing nominations to the National Labor Relations Board and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to move forward.
Fischer says the proposal by majority Democrats would have shut out Republicans from the presidential nominee process.
“I know that elections have consequences. I hear that from my colleagues across the aisle. Elections have consequences. I know that,” Fischer states. “But the Constitution still provides that Senators have an important role to offer and are required to offer advice and consent on those appointments.”
Fischer says that while the fight might seem to the public to be a Washington squabble, the rule change would have had an impact not just on the Senate, but on the country.
“Without the assurance that Senators who are in the minority have a role to play in that confirmation process, the president and his nominees really have no incentive to even talk to Senators who are in the minority.”
As part of the compromise, the president has agreed to withdraw two controversial appointments to the National Labor Relations Board which Republicans contend he didn’t have the authority to do. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a lawsuit claiming President Obama violated the Constitution by making the appointments.
Fischer says the Senate’s week has been consumed with a debate over rules when it needs to move on to other work.
“Last time I checked there were still 23 million Americans who were unemployed or under-employed and I think we ought to be talking about jobs and how we’re going to create jobs, good jobs for people so that they can provide for their families.”
AUDIO: Sen. Deb Fischer discusses proposal to use so-called “nuclear option” on presidential nominees in the U.S. Senate. [7 min.]