STATEMENT ROUNDUP: Broad Spectrum of Voices Cheer Reid Rule Ending GOP’s Obstruction Spree of Qualified Judicial, Executive Nominees


CWA: The Communications Workers of America commends Leader Reid for his leadership in ensuring that the President’s executive and judicial nominations get an up-or-down vote. Today’s Senate action restores an important principle of our democracy.  The Senate majority’s procedural action means that President Obama’s nominations will get confirmation votes.  This procedure isn’t new and there’s nothing “nuclear” or revolutionary about it. Instead, it is the Republicans’ recent strategy of preventing up or down votes on qualified nominees without respect to their merits that has been a radical departure from Senate history. Republicans have been blocking votes on qualified executive and judicial nominees as part of a larger strategy to undermine laws and agencies they disagree with, and to deny President Obama his constitutional authority to fill vacancies. After months of Republican empty promises and broken agreements, Leader Reid had no other choice but to put forward the procedural motion. The Senate has changed application of the rules at least 18 times in the last 35 years, though not necessarily regarding nominations. In 1980, then Majority Leader Byrd used the exact same procedure to eliminate filibusters on a motion to proceed to nominations.   “The Senate action re-enforces the intent of Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution, which clearly states that the Senate’s obligation of advice and consent is based on majority support, not super majority support.  This is a good first step toward restoring a Senate that functions as an integral part of our democracy,” said CWA President Larry Cohen.




Marge Baker, executive vice president of People For the American Way: “The fact that there’s now a path forward to the confirmation of these three extraordinarily qualified D.C. Circuit nominees is unquestionably good news.  It’s now time for the Senate to get on with the business of governing after spending far too long bogged down with reckless GOP obstruction.  Republicans’ abuse of Senate rules during this administration has been astounding. While President Obama has made an effort to work with Republican senators to nominate fair, accomplished judges, Republicans have blocked his nominees at every turn, often for no reason other than the fact that it was President Obama who nominated them.  This irresponsible obstruction is part of a larger effort by Republicans in Congress to nullify laws they don’t like and overturn the results of elections that they lost. This profoundly anti-democratic approach to governing  shut down our federal government, and threatened to shut down our courts.  We are thrilled that President Obama’s D.C. Circuit nominees and the other federal judicial nominees waiting for Senate votes will finally get the fair consideration that they deserve. Senate Republicans have refused to do their jobs for far too long. It’s time to get the Senate working again.”


AFSCME President Lee Saunders: “Washington is broken and the extreme partisan gridlock in the Senate is untenable.  Senator Reid did the right thing in moving to change Senate rules to allow a majority vote on most executive branch nominations.  This is a major step toward resolving Senate obstructionism.” 


Mary Kay Henry, President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU): “We fully support Majority Leader Reid’s action to end the era of Republican obstructionism in the Senate. For too long, a minority of Senators have prevented dozens of qualified nominees from being confirmed, often for petty political reasons or for no reason at all. The impact of this obstructionism has been felt by working people as critical positions in the government and on the courts have been left unfilled, including the nomination of Rep. Mel Watt to lead the Federal Finance Housing Agency. Other important nominations on hold include the three vacancies on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit where there are three extremely qualified nominees awaiting a fair vote, Professor Nina Pillard, Judge Robert Wilkins and Patricia Millett. We thank Majority Leader Reid for taking this courageous step and look forward to seeing President Obama’s nominees receive fair up or down votes in the Senate.”




AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka: “Time and again, Republican Senators have put political obstruction ahead of what’s best for America. Their unprecedented abuse of the Senate rules is a naked attempt to nullify the last election by denying President Obama his picks for critical judicial and executive branch posts. But the Constitution does not allow a minority of one house of Congress to hold the other two branches of government hostage. We applaud the leadership of Senator Reid to uphold democracy by breaking through the gridlock in order to address the pressing needs of our country.  These Washington games have real consequences in people’s lives. Democrat, Republican or Independent, it’s a disgrace and simply un-American if we are not working hard for the people across the country struggling to make ends meet. Working people expect their leaders to maintain a functioning government that works for them and the labor movement will continue to hold those leaders accountable to do just that.”


John Arensmeyer, Founder & CEO of Small Business Majority: “The Senate’s vote today to change the rule requiring a super majority of 60 votes to confirm most presidential nominees to a simple majority is welcome news to small employers. When Congress holds up the confirmation process for heads of government agencies, it hinders its ability to function properly and do critical work that benefits small businesses, consumers and the economy.  A scientific opinion poll Small Business Majority released recently found a strong majority of small business owners believe Congress has been doing a poor job confirming presidential nominees. The poll also revealed small employers believe the president’s nominations deserve a timely up or down vote and don’t approve of the Senate regularly holding up votes to confirm nominations to key government positions like judgeships and government agencies.  Small businesses understand that to survive in this tough economy they need government agencies running smoothly and forming policies that encourage them to innovate. That’s why they support timely votes on the president’s nominees, so the government can continue to promote policies that will help small employers grow and create jobs.  If lawmakers want to do what’s best for small businesses, they should spend their time working to strengthen our economy and advancing smart policies that encourage job creation—not holding up confirmation processes for presidential nominees or hindering government agencies from doing their jobs. We hope this rule change will speed up the process for nominees and prevent some lawmakers from using filibusters to delay or even prevent confirmations based entirely on partisan politics. It’s the right thing to do for small businesses and our country.” 




Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights: “The Senate is one of our democracy’s most important institutions. Yet it has been clear for some time that this once great deliberative body has been severely hampered by the extreme overuse and outright abuse of the filibuster to keep the Senate from performing its constitutional duty to ‘advise and consent’ on executive and judicial branch nominees.  Because it requires a super-majority to overcome it, the filibuster is supposed to be an ‘in case of emergency’ legislative tool reserved for extraordinary situations. Instead, it’s now being used routinely to keep highly qualified nominees from receiving simple ‘yes-or-no’ confirmation votes. As a result, our executive and judicial branches are suffering in their ability to provide service and to dispense justice to the American people. The routine use of the filibuster also has been highly corrosive to the comity that enables the Senate to do much of its work.  Majority Leader Reid has done his job by scheduling timely votes on nominees who have been thoroughly vetted by the various committees of jurisdiction, yet the obstruction persists. The Senate as an institution reached its nadir with the filibusters of Congressman Mel Watt to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) and of Patricia Millett, Cornelia ‘Nina’ Pillard, and Judge Robert Wilkins to fill long-standing vacancies on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, widely acknowledged as the nation’s second-most important federal court. These are nominees of impeccable qualifications, knowledge, and judgment, the kind of people who view public service as a calling and a duty. The fact that those who blocked their confirmations using the filibuster declined to challenge their qualifications, character, or fitness for the offices to which they were appointed speaks volumes about the way the filibuster is being abused.  Senator Reid should be applauded for enabling the Senate to perform its constitutional duties regarding executive branch nominees and judicial nominees below the Supreme Court level. Adoption of the Reid Rule mean that Congressman Watt and the three nominees for the D.C. Circuit will finally be judged on their merits, as they should have been in the first place. We are confident that when yes-or-no votes are scheduled, all four will be confirmed.”




Center for American Progress’s Tom Perriello: “Today’s vote to reform the Senate rules is a victory for the American people and an important step towards getting Washington back to work. Today’s targeted reforms come after years of unprecedented partisan obstruction by the same Republicans who shut down the government and repeatedly held our economy hostage. By abusing the rules of the Senate, the Republican minority has used extreme tactics to retroactively veto laws and the institutions that uphold them.   These obstructionist tactics have crippled the ability of the executive and judicial branches to address the most important issues of the day, such as our nation’s housing crisis, consumers’ and workers’ rights, and the ability to enforce clean air and water protections. Even Chief Justice John Roberts agrees that the current number of judicial vacancies represents a crisis and has urged the Senate to fill these vacancies, including those on the D.C. Circuit, as quickly as possible.  The American public is tired of partisan obstruction and wants Congress to do its job. In the Senate that means allowing simple up-or-down votes on nominations. By reforming its rules, the Senate will finally return to its proper role as spelled out in the Constitution: advise and consent, not obstruct and delay.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and his colleagues deserve praise for reforms that prioritized the needs of the American people over partisan gamesmanship.”




Brad Woodhouse, President, Americans United for Change: “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid desires a huge thank you for taking a strong step forward today to break through the dysfunction in Washington and end Republican gridlock in the United State Senate. Senator Reid has been working tirelessly to ensure the United States has a functioning Senate and today’s actions make the Senate a place where we can actually get things done for the American people.  Those who want the U.S. Senate to operate according to its norms and traditions are cheering today. For too long, the Republicans strategy of preventing up or down votes on qualified nominees, without respect to their merits, actually marked a radical departure from Senate history. Today we said no more.  Let’s be clear – this minor common-sense change puts an end to Republican obstruction of the President’s constitutional duty to appoint nominees. These nominees have been blocked time and time again, not because of their qualifications, but as part of a larger Republican strategy to undermine laws and agencies they don’t agree with. No more.   It’s time to get things moving again. So today, we’re christening “the Reid rule” – the action giving all future presidential nominees an opportunity to have an up-or-down vote. Now the people’s business can get done.”




Demos President Miles Rapoport: “Our system of government calls on the President to nominate and the Senate to confirm federal judges to lifetime service on the bench. This particular court is critically important, and has jurisdiction over a number of government agencies and decides the fate of many government regulations. Yet in an attempt to keep the court in conservative hands, Senate Republicans have attempted to nullify the president’s constitutional authority and have abused Senate procedure for purely political reasons.  This unprecedented use of the filibuster has provoked the need for a change. Since 1949 there have been 168 nominations filibustered, and 82 of them have been under this president. Demos applauds this step toward returning the Senate to its business of serving the American people. The time for serious governing without unrelenting obstruction is now.”


Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen: “After years of unprecedented obstruction, Senate Republicans left their Democratic colleagues with no choice but to repair the chamber by changing its rules. We commend Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid for putting the Senate back to work, and thank the 51 other Democrats who supported his efforts. Now the Senate can do its job and give each of the President’s D.C. Circuit nominees a prompt, up-or-down vote.”




Fix the Senate Now: “Those who want the U.S. Senate to live up to its traditions as a deliberative body where qualified nominees can receive up-or-down votes should applaud today’s news and thank Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the Senate Democratic caucus.  In recent years, the U.S. Senate has been a broken and dysfunctional institution unable to work for the American people due to the runaway obstruction. Today’s reforms are a step toward breaking through that unprecedented gridlock and moving the chamber back toward the constitutional framers’ vision.  This promising step forward is in line with the numerous other instances that the Senate has reformed its filibuster and cloture rules. Additionally, just since 1977, there are18 different instances that the Senate changed its practices by a simple majority vote (see this 2005 Republican Policy Committee (RPC) in-depth overview of Senate reforms by simple majority, available here).  Today’s developments will benefit the American people and the basic functionality of our democracy. The Senate should now proceed to provide a yes-or-no vote to all pending nominees. Ensuring that qualified nominees can be judged on their merits and can receive an up-or-down vote should not be a contentious notion.” 




Fair Share: “For weeks, months and years, Senate Republicans played games with President Obama’s nominees to key positions not because of ideological differences or questions of qualification. Rather, Senate Republicans blocked these nominees simply because they had a legislative agenda and issues with the Administration that they could not muster majority support for.  Enough is enough. When it came to the President’s three nominees to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, even Republicans admitted they had no grounds to oppose the nominees on the merits. Still, they filibustered. They delayed. They obfuscated.  Make no mistake: This is not inside baseball. Throughout President Obama’s time in office, nominees to various judgeships and to federal agencies that protect workers, defend Americans against discrimination and make our food, water and air safe have been blocked, time and again. Today’s action will restore balance to the U.S. Senate and allow it to put the well-being of the American people above the extreme interests of a minority party.”




National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW): “NCJW applauds the Senate’s reform of the filibuster rule, which means senators may now confirm the President’s nominees by a majority vote. The overuse of the filibuster, once employed sparingly, has become a tool to block appointments for all sorts of reasons having nothing to do with the qualifications of the nominees at hand. It has made the Senate’s process a travesty of democracy.  Four highly qualified nominees to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals were previously blocked by the filbuster’s requirement that 60 votes be mustered to end debate. Other highly qualified nominees for administration positions have been blocked as well. Sometimes the opposition has not cited any reasons at all to justify their refusal to permit an up or down vote. The three surviving nominations (one was finally forced to withdraw) should now be brought to a vote.  The filibuster was once a procedural safeguard for the minority, used only four times between 1917 and 1960. Now it is commonplace. It no longer ensures unfettered debate – rather it awards veto power over presidential nominees to a minority of the Senate.




Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune: “Today is a victory for everyone who believes that a fully-functional Senate and a fully-functional democracy should be the standard, not the exception.   Over the last few years, Republican obstructionists in the Senate have abused the rules to create unprecedented gridlock, knowing full well they and their big polluting allies would lose a fair fight in which the majority rules. As a result, almost nothing has been achieved in Washington and the American public has rightly become disgusted with Congress.  Thanks to the leadership of Senator Harry Reid and his Democratic colleagues, critical nominees who have been blocked from doing their jobs should now get an up-or-down vote — and those who use gridlock to score political points have now been denied one of their most prized weapons. Now, it is time to proceed to a vote to confirm these nominees right away. There is much work left to do to fix the Senate and get our democracy working again for the American people, but today the momentum has shifted in the right direction.”




CREDO’s Political Director Becky Bond: “We are thankful for Senator Harry Reid’s leadership today to ensure that White House nominees get an up-or-down vote. Republican abuse of the filibuster not only makes it impossible for the White House to appoint judges and high level officials as mandated by the Constitution, but also threatens to make the Senate powerless to carry out its legislative duties.  The Majority Leader’s move is a long-overdue first step towards much needed filibuster reform. We hope Senator Reid and the Senate Democratic Conference will continue to stand strong and fight to rein in the Republicans who have paralyzed the Senate and made a mockery of the separation of powers with their petty, abusive and obstructionist strategies.”


Democracy for America’s Executive Director Charles Chamberlain: “Facing an unprecedented level of Republican obstruction rooted in petty politics, Senate Democrats have rightly reformed the filibuster and the grassroots base of the Democratic party have their back for taking this important stand.”




Alliance for Justice President Nan Aron: “Alliance for Justice commends Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the Senators who voted to change Senate rules today for their courageous decision to end the unprecedented abuse of Senate rules by a Republican minority dedicated to obstruction-at-all-costs. This was not a decision made easily or taken lightly.  There was no choice.  The Republican minority had turned the existing rules into weapons of mass obstruction.  Most recently, they acknowledged that they had no grounds to oppose on the merits President Obama’s supremely-qualified nominees for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.  But they filibustered those nominees anyway.  This change in the rules is the only way to return the Senate to its place as the world’s greatest deliberative body; it is the only way to ensure that the Senate can put the well-being of the American people ahead of the political interests of an extremist minority.  Now that the rules have changed, the Senate must move quickly to confirm President Obama’s D.C. Circuit nominees, and all of the other nominees that, until now, have been held hostage to obstruction.  Those nominees include 14 more nominees for judgeships who are currently awaiting Senate floor votes, and executive branch nominees such as Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., whose nomination to run the Federal Housing Finance Agency was filibustered last month.”




Justice at Stake Director of Federal Affairs & Diversity Issues Praveen Fernandes: “While we are dismayed that it had to come to this, today’s developments leave the fair-courts movement hopeful that the Senate might move forward to expeditiously schedule and hold up-or-down votes on judicial nominees.   Today, nearly 10% of the federal judiciary sits empty. Well over half of this country’s population lives in a jurisdiction in which a judicial emergency has been declared, meaning that their courthouses don’t have enough judges to adequately handle their caseload. At its core, this judicial vacancy crisis is a justice crisis. The American people (who depend upon judges for the protection of their rights) and American businesses (which rely on our courts for the structural certainty required for economic growth) deserve nothing less than a judiciary that is fully staffed with qualified judges.   We hope that the judicial nominations and confirmations impasse has ended and that up-or-votes will proceed without further delay. We also hope that senators across the political spectrum will pledge to protect the strength and vibrancy of our courts. People across this country deserve nothing less.”


ACS President Caroline Fredrickson: “With obstructionists in the Senate bent on a shutting down the judiciary, something had to give. President Obama has three years left in his term and he must be able to fill these positions. The government must be allowed to function and our judiciary must be able to serve the people. In order to do that the Senate must fill its constitutional role or we will face an even bigger crisis down the road. Our judicial system is hamstrung and a rules changes was necessary to ensure it gets back up and running.”


Michael Waldman, President, Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law: “The Senate’s action today is a significant step to help overcome government dysfunction. The Senate’s proper role is to advise and consent, not obstruct and deny. Recent filibusters have paralyzed Washington. One branch of government is preventing the other two from operating. Ending rampant filibuster abuse is vital for our courts to fulfill their promise of justice and our agencies to effectively execute our laws.”


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