Thank You Harry Reid & Senate Rules Reform (and Yes, Ted Cruz)

Senate Finally Confirms Dozens of Backlogged & Qualified Nominees Before Shutting Its Doors 

Washington, DC – The Fix the Senate Now coalition expresses gratitude to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and the Senate Democratic caucus for prioritizing and confirming dozens of nominees in recent days. We also extend special thanks to Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) for his role in helping to advance the nominations (though it may not have exactly been his intention).

Most notably, the dozens of new confirmations offer a reminder of the importance of last November’s Senate rules reforms. In November 2013, prodded by this coalition and many reform-minded Senators, the chamber adopted sensible reforms that provided an up-or-down vote for most presidential and judicial nominations. This moved the Senate back toward its historical roots. As even Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell now states, “it’s long been historical precedent that a simple majority of senators – not 60 – have been able to confirm presidential nominees,” as Politico reports.

In large part because of last year’s reforms, the Senate has confirmed 69 of President Obama’s nominees since last Friday alone, per the Los Angeles Times. This total includes dozens of qualified nominees who were stuck in limbo due to a Republican strategy of obstruction and time-wasting that persisted independent from the merits of individual nominees. As Jeremy Peters notes in the New York Times, after the flurry of confirmations in recent weeks:

“The Senate has now confirmed 41 of the president’s nominees with fewer than 60 votes. Many were named to powerful positions that would have prompted filibusters in the past.”

Among the nominees finally receiving their long-awaited vote in recent days was Tom Hicks, one of three new Commissioners voted onto the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) last night.  Hicks had waited since April 2010 for his vote – making him the longest waiting nominee in this administration.  Now, with its newly reestablished quorum in place, a fully-functional EAC will again be able to advance new technological recommendations to better serve state and local election administrators. 

The story is the same across many executive branch agencies – the newly confirmed nominees mean that more agencies, boards, and departments are fully functional and capable of fulfilling their stated missions.

In the judicial arena, Senate rules reform has had a similarly positive effect. As Jen Bendery writes in the Huffington Post:  

“The numbers speak for themselves.  Prior to filibuster reform, Obama got 45 judges confirmed in 2013 and 49 judges confirmed in 2012.  He's nearly doubled those numbers in the last year.”

Al Kamen and Paul Kane reach a similar consensus in the Washington Post, writing:

“Senate Democrats’ move last year to eliminate filibusters on most nominations — it now takes only a simple majority to confirm — has helped President Obama dramatically increase his impact on the federal judiciary for years to come…

With the last dozen pending judicial nominees confirmed Tuesday night, the filibuster change has boosted his total judicial confirmations this year to 89, by far his highest yearly total and the second highest of the last three presidents (President Clinton had 100 confirmed in 1994, President Bush’s high was 72 in 2002.)”


 For more information or to interview leaders from the Fix the Senate Now coalition, contact Michael Earls at media@fixthesenatenow.org

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