On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid began steps to exercise the so-called “nuclear option,” a permanent change to Senate rules to prohibit filibusters on Presidential nominations. Senators would no longer have the right to extended debate on Executive and Judicial nominations. It is a move Reid strenuously opposed when proposed by the GOP in 2005. Today, however, a few nominations important to Big Labor are stalled, so Reid has reversed course.
In early 2012, President Obama used his recess appointment powers to place two controversial nominees onto the National Labor Relations Board. The only problem is that Congress wasn’t in recess. In January, a federal court ruled the appointments unconstitutional, potentially invalidating all rulings and actions by the Board for the year they served.
Undeterred, Obama simply renominated the appointees, Sharon Block and Richard Griffin, which angered the GOP. According to sources on the Hill, GOP and Democrat staff had worked out a deal where these two would not be nominated. Obama’s nomination of Anthony Perez to be the next Labor Secretary is also stalled in the Senate, with several Senators raising serious objections about Perez’s record.
So, it isn’t surprising that yesterday AFL-CIO President Richard Trumpka urged Reid to exercise the “nuclear” option, allowing nominees to be confirmed by a simple majority. One major union, the Communications Workers of America, had already threatened to withhold support from any Democrat who voted against the “nuclear” option.
One prominent Senator described the nuclear option in stark terms.
The American people, in effect, reject the nuclear option because they see it for what it is–an abuse of power, arrogance of power. Lord Acton said power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. … That is what is going on. The rules are being changed in the middle of the game. They are breaking the rules to change the rules. Regardless of one’s political affiliation, Americans understand this is a partisan political grab.
That Senator was Harry Reid, speaking on the Senate floor in 2005. Those who pay the piper, however, get to call the tune. Big Labor pays for a lot of pipers.