Sen. Vitter, the top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, announced last week that he was dropping his opposition to President Obama’s pick of Gina McCarthy to head up the Environmental Protection Agency, asserting that the Obama administration had finally coughed up on some of his demands and that “I’ve had very productive conversations with EPA over the last several weeks and believe the agency has taken significant steps forward on our five transparency requests.” The Hill reports that the Senate at large is prepared to follow suit when her vote comes up on Tuesday:
The Senate is slated to vote at long last on Gina McCarthy, nominated by President Obama nominated four months ago to run the Environmental Protection Agency.
Lawmakers are scheduled to vote on a slew of executive branch nominees as the battle over filibuster rules comes to a head.
McCarthy is expected to win confirmation once the Senate gets around to voting.
Whether it was really the Obama administration abiding by some of the Senate Republicans’ transparency requests, however, or merely a matter of Senate Republicans picking their battles ahead of the snowballing fight over what looks like Majority Leader Harry Reid’s increasing willingness to trigger the “nuclear option” of altering Senate procedure to limit minority rights, who knows. The one major caveat to McCarthy’s apparently forthcoming confirmation, as The Hill adds, is that McCarthy’s nomination is now part of the Senate’s ensuing kung fu death match between the Democrats’ threat of going ahead with said nuclear option and Republicans’ fierce opposition to Obama’s nominees to the National Labor Relations Board and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — and as of earlier today, it doesn’t sound like the letup on McCarthy’s EPA nomination was doing anything to quell Reid’s newfound determination. From the WSJ:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) said that unless Republican senators allow up or down votes on seven presidentially nominated officials beginning Tuesday, he and fellow Democrats intend to go through with a rule change that would strip the power of Republicans to filibuster certain confirmations.
Mr. Reid said Monday he had the backing of the Democratic caucus, indicating there was little room for negotiation with the GOP on eliminating the 60-vote threshold needed to reach a final vote on cabinet secretaries and other executive-branch nominees. He would seek passage of a rule changing that to 51 votes—the same number needed for confirmation, and one that could easily be reached if the Democratic majority in the Senate backed a nominee.
“Right now the Senate is broken and needs to be fixed,” Mr. Reid said in a speech at the liberal-leaning think tank Center for American Progress in Washington.
Oh, boy. This type of bulldozing is now going to go over well, an as Byron York argues, that could very well set the stage for nuclear winter. If Reid thinks the GOP is being so damnably “obstructionist” now, just wait for it:
Given all that, some Democrats argue that things can’t get much worse. But they can.
For example, nearly everything the Senate does requires that senators first agree to direct the body’s attention to this or that subject. That is usually done through a routine procedure called unanimous consent. But if just one senator wants to stop things, he or she can.
“Most people underestimate the importance of unanimous consent and how it will, if denied, slow down the operations of the Senate, perhaps to a halt,” says John Cornyn, the number-two ranking Republican in the Senate. “I can foresee a circumstance where every time there is an effort to do something on the floor, there is going to be an objection, and that will string out for a long time.”
If Reid goes ahead with his threat, Republicans will certainly shut down the Senate for a while; a nuclear winter will follow the nuclear option. But that is just a temporary matter. Far more serious is the GOP retaliation that is sure to come at some point in the future.