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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Dionne: Deal on Presidential Nominees a Big Win Vs. GOP Obstructionism

Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne, Jr. disagrees with those who say the deal Dems cut to avoid major filibuster reform amounts to a cave to Republicans.
At the National Journal, for example, Jill Lawrence argues that the deal is flawed because “Senate Republicans are letting President Obama fill a few important slots in his administration, but they haven’t given an inch where it really counts–on the federal judges who could define his legacy for generations.” But Dionne takes a look at the larger picture and observes:

For all the railing against dysfunction in the nation’s capital, very little actually happened to overcome it — until this week. That’s why the agreement to begin putting an end to Senate filibusters of presidential nominees is a very big deal. It is an acknowledgment that the only way to stop political bullying is to confront the bully.
On its face, the accord allowing seven of President Obama’s executive-branch nominees to gain confirmation without having to reach 60 votes would seem to be a climb-down by Democrats. They shelved plans to change the Senate rules and to bar filibusters of the president’s appointments to agency and Cabinet jobs.
But this understates the magnitude of the victory. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell would have let the nominees through only if the Democrats promised not to alter the rules for the rest of this Congress. Yet such a capitulation would have opened the way for future filibusters….Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid stoutly refused to sheath the sword of a subsequent rules battle…

Dionne notes that Republicans blocked confirmation of Richard Cordray as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau “because they were still mad that the agency, which expands consumer power over financial institutions, had been created in the first place.” Dionne quotes Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who candidly observed in a rare display of humilty “Cordray was being filibustered because we don’t like the law…That’s not a reason to deny someone their appointment. We were wrong.”
Cordray’s confirmation with 66 votes represents “a genuine shift in the balance in Washington toward consumers and away from banking interests,” says Dionne. He credits Democratic Sens. Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Tom Harkin of Iowa and Tom Udall of New Mexico for pressing their colleagues and energizing progressives.
Dionne sees the deal as a “major advance for those who want government to do its job.” He warns, however, that “it will take continuing pressure to keep the obstructionists at bay.”

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