For Senate Democrats, 'Nuclear Option' Paid Off

By Ferrechio, Susan | Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The, December 15, 2014 | Go to article overview

For Senate Democrats, 'Nuclear Option' Paid Off


Ferrechio, Susan, Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The


On Nov. 21, 2013, Senate Democrats made a historic rules change to end filibusters of judicial and executive branch nominees.

The move, which lowered the confirmation threshold from 60 votes to 51 votes, was considered so drastic that lawmakers labeled it the "nuclear option."

It could soon backfire on Democrats, now that Republicans are about to take the Senate majority and, by 2016, possibly the White House.

But the rules change, orchestrated by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, helped Democrats achieve critical gains for their party in the judicial and executive branch that will help President Obama carry out and maintain what has become an increasingly unilateral strategy to move his agenda on immigration, the environment and other issues.

By sheer volume, Democrats are on course to confirm a near- record number of judges in the 113th Congress, which adjourns at the end of December.

Judicial confirmations tracked by the office of Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, show that the Senate is poised to confirm 129 judges to district and appellate courts, the third-highest number of any Congress since the Kennedy administration.

But the numbers aren't where Democrats made the critical gains.

Reid's biggest rules-change win provided Democrats a path to confirm Obama's three nominees to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, which is arguably the most important court in the land aside from the Supreme Court.

The D.C. Circuit is responsible for hearing a wide array of cases related to Environmental Protection Agency regulations, labor relations, banking, election laws and many other rules, regulations and laws churned out by the government.

This is the court that likely will rule on challenges to many of the Obama administration's regulations relating to reducing coal- fired power plant emissions and changes to deportation laws, for example.

The court has already played a critical role in determining the survival of the healthcare law, recently ruling on a key challenge to the law's contraception coverage mandate and the federal subsidies that keep Obamacare solvent. …

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