WASHINGTON – Senators on Tuesday closed in on a deal that will likely end Democratic threats to rewrite Senate filibuster rules and force up-or-down confirmation votes on seven controversial Obama administration nominees – including three men from Buffalo.
Under terms of the deal, Buffalo native Thomas E. Perez, the president’s choice to serve as labor secretary, and Buffalo native Mark Gaston Pearce, whom the president renominated as chairman of the National Labor Relations Board, would be confirmed. But the labor board nomination of Buffalo-born lawyer Richard F. Griffin Jr. would not move forward.
“I think it is going to be something that is good for the Senate,” said Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, of the emerging deal on the floor of the Senate. “It is a compromise, and I think we get what we want, they get what they want. Not a bad deal.”
While announcing that a deal was near, Reid did not unveil any details.
But Senate sources said the deal calls for the nominations of Perez, the Buffalo native chosen by President Obama to serve as labor secretary, to move forward, along with Obama’s choices for Environmental Protection Agency administrator and the heads of the Import-Export Bank and Consumer Financial Protection Board.
Pearce’s renomination as chairman of the National Labor Relations Board would move forward as well. But the Senate would not act on the labor board nominations of Griffin and Sharon Block; instead, Obama would nominate new people who are amenable to the labor movement to serve in those two positions.
Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said late Monday the sticking point in the talks centered on the nominations of Griffin and Block to serve on the labor panel.
Obama first named Griffin and Block to their posts as “recess appointments” when the Senate wasn’t at work in early 2012. A federal appeals court has since ruled their appointments to be illegal, which is why Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has insisted that they not be confirmed.
“I think the NLRB is the real point of contention,” Thune said. “The two NLRB appointments are really, really difficult for Republicans who believe they were illegally made.”
Republicans had also quietly blocked the renomination of Pearce to lead the labor board, even though he was not a recess appointment.
Thanks to the deal, though, the Senate quickly voted to end debate on the nomination of Richard Cordray, Obama’s choice to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and later confirmed Cordray on a 66-34 vote, with 12 Republicans and two independents voting with Democrats.
Votes on Perez and the other administration appointees, save for Griffin and Block, would follow, though the timing of the votes was uncertain.
Reid told his colleagues Tuesday morning that Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., was essential to crafting the deal that stopped Democrats from forcing a rules change that would allow nominees to administration positions to be confirmed by a mere majority vote, rather than the 60-vote supermajority now called for under the filibuster rules. “John McCain is the reason we’re at the point we’re at,” Reid said.
McCain, meanwhile, credited his colleagues, who hashed out the issue in a 3½-hour private caucus in the Old Senate Chamber on Monday night.
“I thank all of my colleagues for an evening that I thought was very important in our relations in the United States Senate,” McCain said.