Democrats Can Thank Five Republican Judges For Making Filibuster Reform Possible

According to an e-mail from Sen. Harry Reid’s (D-NV) office, the Majority Leader just filed cloture on seven of President Obama’s nominees, including several nominees to jobs Senate Republicans have promised to allow no one to be confirmed to no matter who the president nominates. “Cloture” is the Senate’s procedure to break a filibuster, and since Republicans are widely expected not to provide the votes necessary to break their own filibusters on these nominees, Reid’s filing sets up a process that will allow Senate Democrats to change the Senate’s rules with just 51 votes.

The seven nominees are Richard Cordray lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Fred Hochberg to chair the Export-Import Bank, Gina McCarthy to be EPA Administrator, Tom Perez to be Secretary of Labor and three Democratic nominees to the National Labor Relations Board: Richard Griffin, Sharon Block, Mark Gaston Pearce.

Reid says he has the 51 votes necessary to end obstruction of nominees who enjoy majority support in the Senate. Ironically, if Reid succeeds, he will owe much of his success to five Republican judges who forced this issue upon the Senate. Five Republicans on the United States Court of Appeals joined two decisions holding that President Obama did not have the power to make several recess appointments to the NLRB, despite the fact that these decisions cannot be squared with prior court decisions or precedent. If these Republican judges’ decisions were upheld by the Supreme Court, it would effectively shut down the NLRB and render much of American labor law inoperative. Simply put, an inactive NLRB is an existential threat to the union movement.

This threat left Senate Democrats with no choice but to move forward with rules reform in order to prevent a joint effort by Republican senators and Republican judges from effectively repealing a network of important pro-worker laws created during the Roosevelt Administration. Thus, the decision by five Republican judges to lash out at President Obama’s actions will have the unintended result of increasing Obama’s ability to govern. Other Republican judges may want to bear that in mind the next time they consider a similar maneuver.