WASHINGTON, D.C. – Both of New Jersey’s senators voted to eliminate the use of filibuster against the confirmation votes for most presidential nominees. The move, which represents a fundamental change in the way the Senate functions, should clear the way for President Barack Obama’s nominees to federal judiciary and cabinet posts.
The vote carried 52-48, with three Democrats joining the Senate’s 45 Republicans in opposition to the rules change.
A filibuster is a procedural measure where one or more Senators can delay or prevent a vote that the majority supports. In the Senate, rules had required a vote of 60 out of 100 Senators to bring debate to a close. Now, just a simple majority vote is needed to end filibusters of executive and judicial nominations, except for Supreme Court justices.
“The American people have had enough. Enough of the gridlock, inaction and disregard for the concerns of middle class families. This is not a decision made easily, but the abuse of rules and the unprecedented obstruction against this President by the other side have brought us here. We must return to the people’s business,” said U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ).
Both parties had threatened to change the Senate’s filibuster rule at various points in recent years as filibusters of nominations became more common.
“We have repeatedly tried to work with our colleagues and we have used every other option possible. Earlier this year, both sides agreed to consider certain nominees and give these qualified candidates up or down votes in a timely manner by unanimous consent, except in extraordinary circumstances,” Menendez said. “Later, Republicans abandoned any pretext for delay and announced that they would not consider any nominees to the District of Columbia Circuit Court and they blocked qualified Executive nominees including Mel Watt—the first time since the Civil War that a sitting Member of Congress has been filibustered. Their refusal is not because they believe any of the nominees to be unqualified, but because they want to obstruct action in the Senate and focus on unrelated political issues.”
Conservatives expressed outrage at the Senate vote. “One thing is clear, today’s change in Senate rules is about packing the D.C. Circuit with liberal ideologues that will transform it into a rubber stamp for anything the President wants,” said Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel
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