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October 25, 2014

Biden Open to Filibuster Changes After Republicans Block Watt, Millett Nominations (Updated)

Biden 01 041713 445x315 Biden Open to Filibuster Changes After Republicans Block Watt, Millett Nominations (Updated)

(Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 2:56 p.m. | The nomination wars are officially back.

Just minutes after the swearing-in of New Jersey Democrat Cory Booker, the Senate dove headfirst back into a standoff over executive and judicial branch nominations.

“I think it’s worth considering it,” Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., said of changing Senate rules on nominees after Republicans filibustered two nominees.

Republicans blocked President Barack Obama’s pick of Rep. Melvin Watt, D-N.C., to become the top housing finance regulator, and Patricia Ann Millett’s nomination to fill one of three vacant seats on the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals. Watt was blocked on a 56-42 vote for cloture, while Millett failed on a 55-38 vote. Sixty votes are needed to avoid a filibuster. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid voted “no” to preserve his right to reconsider the vote.

The Nevada Democrat said after the votes that he would call up two other nominations for seats on the D.C. Circuit.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., contended Watt did not have the right experience for the job overseeing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

“America needs someone with technical expertise and experience to run Fannie and Freddie’s conservator and ensure that we don’t repeat the same mistakes that led to the last financial crisis. And taxpayers need someone who will protect against future bailouts,” McConnell said in a statement. “This is the second FHFA nominee that President Obama has sent who did not meet those standards.”

Both North Carolina senators backed Watt, including Republican Richard M. Burr.

The votes drew a quick rebuke from the White House and revived talk of using the “nuclear option” to get around filibusters.

“We really hope there’s an opportunity for these nominees to move forward,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said, calling both nominees highly qualified and dismissing the opposition as “politics.”

At the Capitol for Booker’s swearing-in, Biden sounded open to backing a rules change.

“I think it’s time for some common sense on confirmation. Mel Watt is absolutely, totally thoroughly qualified. It’s a gigantic disappointment,” Biden told reporters.

The outcome was foretold when Sen. John McCain appeared on the floor shortly before noon to announce that he thought the Watt and Millett nominations were extraordinary circumstances under the terms of the 2005 “gang of 14″ agreement that avoided a similar standoff.

“As to both the nominees we are considering today, I find and it is my judgment as a United States senator that extraordinary conditions exist,” the Arizona Republican said.

McCain was acutely aware what his declaration might mean, immediately suggesting further discussions with Reid.

“If we go to the nuclear option, which I understand some of my colleagues are now frustrated to the point where they’d like to, meaning that 51 votes will now determine either nominees or other rules of the Senate, we will destroy the very fabric of the United States Senate,” McCain said.

As a sitting member of the House, the filibuster of Watt is extremely rare.

In addition, Democrats touted Millett as a moderate choice as a longtime appellate lawyer and wife of a military veteran.

“At the height of her legal career, her husband was called on to deploy as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. With two young children at home, Ms. Millett did what many military spouses do every day across this country by filling the role of both parents at home while her husband served in the Navy overseas,” Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy said Wednesday. “Through her legal work, Ms. Millett has earned broad bipartisan support. This includes the support of Peter Keisler, Carter Phillips, Kenneth Starr, Theodore Olson and Paul Clement and a bipartisan group of 110 appellate practitioners, as well as 37 deputy solicitors general and assistants to the solicitor general from both Republican and Democratic administrations.”

The Vermont Democrat’s reference to Keisler’s support is particularly interesting, because his nomination to the same court stalled out during the George W. Bush administration thanks to opposition from Democrats.

There was a bipartisan deal back then to fill some federal appeals court seats with people Reid clearly does not like.

“Because of a deal we made, and I was part of it, and I’ll take responsibility for a lot of it, we put on some bad people on that court to try to alleviate the nuclear option some years ago,” Reid told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow in a Wednesday interview.

“No one questions her qualifications or her temperament,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said Thursday morning, noting that Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz has been among those highlighting the merits of Millett’s nomination.

Republicans have made the case that confirming her and two other nominees to the same circuit is unneeded because of the caseload. Democrats argue that many of the court’s cases are more complex than those of other circuits, however. That’s a contention Republicans are quick to dispute.

“History shows that these Republican arguments have nothing to do with caseload and everything to do with the party of the president,” Leahy said Thursday.

The real argument being made by Republicans is that the power on the D.C. Circuit Court shouldn’t tilt in favor of Democrats, even though there are three vacant seats established by statute.

“Our Democratic colleagues and the administration’s supporters have been fairly candid about it. They have admitted they want to control the court so it will advance the president’s agenda,” McConnell said Thursday.

In the MSNBC interview, Reid said he wasn’t prepared to make threats about trying to deploy a simple-majority change in rules or procedures at this juncture.

“If they want to turn this good woman down, I’ve got two more they’re going to have to look at. … I’m not going to stop with her if they don’t approve her,” Reid said, in reference to Millett.

The Judiciary Committee backed the third D.C. Circuit nominee, Judge Robert Wilkins, on Thursday morning. Wilkins is in the queue for the floor behind Georgetown Law professor Nina Pillard.

Steven T. Dennis and Alan K. Ota contributed to this report.

  • F Michael Addams

    End the filibuster on Presidential Nominations…51 votes…straight up or down..Where in the constitution does it say elections don’t matter, Harry..?

    • DJT

      STUPID IS STUPID but the endless lack of factual history is stunning— Kennedy, Bobby Byrd and Reid pushed and succeeded in the 60 vote threshold when the Repubs had majority! Dumb Repubs gave in and now the Dems don’t like what THEY wrought. READ history.

  • Ken B Brown

    This method of running the government must stop. MAJORITY vote should be what matters and tell the little boys to stop the BS and do what is best for the country. We can no longer allow a few to tell all the rest what to do. Kill the filibusterer once and for all. Start TODAY. Harry Reid, watch this space!

  • narnia

    Can we once and for all change this stupid filibuster rule? This is part of the reason that we hate congress. It is rigged.

  • Bob Viering

    This is purely political maneuvering. The Republicans want to goad Democrats into using the “nuclear” option because they know it will be enormously unpopular with their base and with many moderates as well. And, as we all know, controversy brings donors checkbooks out. Today, raising money is far more important that governing. Just out of curiosity, did anyone see if Sen. McCain crossed his fingers when he made his speech?

  • Jesse4

    As long as Obama is in office, the Republicans are going to sabotage and obstruct anything connected to the US government anyway they can. They can’t be reasoned with or worked with, so it’s time to start rolling over them instead of pretending like they are partners in running the country.
    Push the red button, Harry.

    • juandos

      As long as Obama is in office, the Republicans are going to sabotage and obstruct anything connected to the US government anyway they can.“…

      ROFLMAO! Equating the US government to the seditious Kenyan Kommie Klown is really hilarious!

  • http://ideologyaside.blogspot.com/ Gozo Rabat

    “NO WONDER REPUBLICANS HATE GOVERNMENT”

    Members of the GOP seem unable to distinguish between (A) nominee fitness and (B) opposing political views. Only one of these two traits is subject to the Senate’s role of “Advise and Consent. But which one trait it is, seems to be any Republican’s guess.

    Whether it comes to running the government, or even keeping it open—

    —Whether it comes to pay or not to pay America’s bills, as the Constitution mandates—

    —Whether it comes (A) to investing in America’s growth versus (B) to spending on furloughed employees’ paid vacations, and un-docked paychecks for members of the House and the Senate—

    —Whether it comes to complaining about website glitches for healthcare that doesn’t go into effect till next year—

    With each passing day, this one cliché gains greater credence:

    “No wonder Republicans hate government: they don’t know how it works.”

    Regards,
    (($; -)}
    Gozo!

    • juandos

      Well now I don’t think I’ve ever read something so blindingly idiotic in quite a long time…

      Flunk civics much?

      • http://ideologyaside.blogspot.com/ Gozo Rabat

        REQUEST FOR CLARIFICATION:

        juandos (2 hours ago) writes, “Well now I don’t think I’ve ever read something so blindingly idiotic in quite a long time…Flunk civics much?”
        ____________________

        The question is not clear from these comments. If juandos will elaborate on what part confuses or is objectionable, I may be able to clarify.

        Regards,
        (($; -)}
        Gozo!

        • juandos

          All of it…

          Your inability differentiate between the leftist propaganda whether its sourced from some seditious Dem or from what is laughingly called the news media makes your judgemental calls the stuff of humor…

          • http://ideologyaside.blogspot.com/ Gozo Rabat

            TRUE OR FALSE? OR “JUDGMENTAL CALLS OF HUMOR”?

            juandos (6 hours ago) writes, “All of it…[confuses or is objectionable]…Your inability differentiate between the leftist propaganda whether its sourced from some seditious Dem or from what is laughingly called the news media makes your judgemental calls the stuff of humor…”
            ____________________

            With all due respect, the accusation, “All of it,” still has me at a disadvantage. I’ve gone over my post several times, and I can’t find these alleged “seditious Dem” sources or “laughingly called news media” items.
            ____________________

            My first post was called “Blindingly idiotic,” and I guess that’s as specific as this discussion is going to get from that side. In the mean time, absent any specific argument, I’ll stand by the cliché:

            “No wonder Republicans hate government: they don’t know how it works.”

            Regards,
            (($; -)}
            Gozo!

          • juandos

            With all due respect, the accusation, “All of it,” still has me at a disadvantage. I’ve gone over my post several times, and I can’t find these alleged “seditious Dem” sources or “laughingly called news media” items.“…

            Well color me shocked! ROFLMAO!

            Maybe another rereading of the Constitution by you is needed…

            You tell me where in the Constitution it says its OK to extort from the productive in order to buy the votes of the parasitic…

            BTW why are you confusing me with the Republicans?

          • http://ideologyaside.blogspot.com/ Gozo Rabat

            SIGNING OFF. GOD BLESS AMERICA:

            juandos (two days ago) wrote, “Maybe another rereading of the Constitution by you is needed…You tell me where in the Constitution it says its OK to extort from the productive in order to buy the votes of the parasitic….BTW why are you confusing me with the Republicans?”
            ____________________

            I confess to not understanding much of juanados’s response. However, not everyone is still willing to try for decent conversation with me, so I appreciate the generous effort…

            But now it looks like everyone else has left this discussion. It’s time for me to be getting out of here, too.

            Regards,
            (($; -)}
            Gozo!

  • vikings55

    I thought they should of got rid of that long ago. Just do it. The President should get the people he wants. He won. That goes for both sides. If people don’t like them, Vote them out next time. Simple and Democratic.

    • Al Ross

      they cant be voted out these are lifetime appointments.

  • disqus_lI3fxXkYMr

    End the filibuster for judicial nominations!

  • Al Ross

    these nominees are not needed!
    the current caseload for the dc circuit is 180-185 cases a year , so small in fact they take the entire summer off because there is not enough work to keep them busy.
    the average caseload for the other circuit courts is 323 .
    not to mention every additional judge adds 1 million dollars a year.
    this is nothing more than stacking the dc court with lifetime progressive appointees
    if they want to use them in other areas of the country that have very high caseloads there would probably be no objection

  • Andre Leonard

    Johnny come lately Biden spent 34 years riding the senatorial gravy-train prior to being V.P. As a career politician, he has had more than enough time to effect any necessary and useful changes and either could not or would not.

    Fostering this current culture, climate and game of partisan bickering.

  • Richard Tebaldi

    I remember several similar issues that the Democrats used the filibuster to stop republican nominations over the last 6 years. They didn’t get as much negative press as the Republicans did. I think the filibuster is a waste of time. Congress ought to pass a bill rendering it useless and add to it, attaching bills to others. Each bill should be on it’s own. Fair for both, but both parties won’t go for it because they prefer infighting and mediocrity… More money for their ilk.

  • higgins1990

    DO IT! Then when the Republicans when the Senate next year, they will have both reconciliation and not have to worry about the minority party’s filibuster. DO IT! PLEASE!

  • juandos

    “I think it’s time for some common sense on confirmation. Mel Watt is absolutely, totally thoroughly qualified. It’s a gigantic disappointment,” Biden told reporters“…

    Says the dolt who doesn’t have enough common sense to change out his Depends when needed…

  • jdelaney3

    IF Congress would start dutifully impeaching judges who are demonstrably unfaithful to the Constitution–and there are many–then stupid, self-serving confirmation rules in the Senate would be rendered irrelevant. But, of course, most “reps”, both on the left and right, neither understand nor respect the Constitution.

    • http://www.blogliberally.com/ BlogLiberally

      Agree COMPLETELY!

  • iconoclast

    Stop whining for the cameras and do it. Or shut up.

  • http://ideologyaside.blogspot.com/ Gozo Rabat

    CLARITY IN THE MIND OF THE MURKY BEHOLDER:

    juandos (6 hours ago) writes, “All of it…[confuses or is objectionable]…Your inability differentiate between the leftist propaganda whether its sourced from some seditious Dem or from what is laughingly called the news media makes your judgemental calls the stuff of humor…”
    ____________________

    With all due respect, the accusation, “All of it,” still has me at a disadvantage. I’ve gone over my post several times, and I can’t find these alleged “seditious Dem” sources or “laughingly called news media” items:

    TRUE or FALSE? Sen. Cruz himself said that he was not following the constitutional provision to advise or consent in the confirmation hearings.

    TRUE or FALSE? House Republicans repeatedly said that they would shut the government down to defund Obamacare.

    TRUE or FALSE? Tea Party Republicans have now twice (in different ways) blocked authorization to pay America’s incurred bills.

    TRUE or FALSE? The recent shutdown led to paid, work-free vacations for Federal employees, while Congress drew its pay, too.

    TRUE or FALSE? And no Obamacare policies go into effect until next January, so the glitches are just irritating inconvenience so far. (Though I acknowledge this could change, come next year)
    ____________________

    My first post was called “Blindingly idiotic,” and I guess that’s as specific as this discussion is going to get from that side. In the mean time, absent any specific argument, I’ll stand by the original cliché:

    “No wonder Republicans hate government: they don’t know how it works.”

    Regards,
    (($; -)}
    Gozo!

  • xbox361

    Doubt McConnell would know who should run it, but I’m sure if Kentucky gets some KY lubricant, things will work out.

  • richard40

    I hope the senate dems actually do repeal the filibuster now. They still cant do much as long as repubs still have the house. And if Obama makes a few more really crappy appointments, so what. They will have set the precedent, and without the filibuster it will be much easier to repeal obamacare.

  • http://www.blogliberally.com/ BlogLiberally

    Change the DAMN RULES TODAY! When the GOP eventually claims control of the Senate they’ll change after the first Democratic Filibuster! Better to DO IT NOW and get things done than to wait until it’s too late. Remember the party that FIRST threatened the so called “nuclear option” was the GOP when Dr. Bill Frist was majority leader, while at the same time he was making diagnosis from the floor of the Senate!
    Democrats PLEASE WAKE UP.

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