- Apr 12, 2009
- Reaction score
- Fairfax, VA
Let's hope this helps end some of the gridlock. Hopefully this is a sign of a little thaw between the parties.
Senators OK deal on filibusters, nominations
By Paul Kane
WASHINGTON — Senate leaders announced a bipartisan deal yesterday to speed up the chamber’s work by limiting the use of the filibuster and dropping the confirmation process for about 400 federal agency nominees.
The broad agreement is the most significant change in 35 years.
Majority leader Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, and minority leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, appearing together on the chamber floor at noon, left intact the minority’s right to block some legislation by requiring a 60-vote threshold through a threatened filibuster. But the leaders agreed to repeal the decades-old stalling tactics of secret holds — in which an anonymous senator could slow action on a bill — and the ability to force amendments to be read in their entirety on the floor.
Leaders said they hoped the deal — cemented in a series of votes and handshake agreements — would encourage the free-wheeling bipartisan debates that are part of the chamber’s lore but have become increasingly rare.
The highly partisan Senate of the 21st century has become bogged down in procedural maneuverings.
“We’re going to try to legislate,’’ Reid said in a brief interview after announcing the deal.
Perhaps the most fundamental shift, in terms of governance, was the agreement to reduce by one-third the number of federal government positions that require Senate confirmation. The current total stands at more than 1,200 slots, ranging from the secretaries of defense and state, to the part-time directors of the Broadcasting Board of Governors.
The Senate often has a massive glut of pending nominees. The backlog drew much criticism in early 2009 when Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner worked for months without his top advisers while waiting for the Senate to approve the appointments.
In December, as senators finished their work for the 111th Congress, 25 nominees to agencies and boards were left pending, approved by committees but not by the full Senate, and instead were returned to President Obama.
The new deal means hundreds of nominees to lower-level posts will no longer have to spend months, sometimes years, going through the confirmation process.
Judicial nominations are not affected by the deal.