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Filibuster Rule Change Could Open Logjam on Nominees

November 22, 2013

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U.S. Senate confirmation votes on three of President Obama nominees could come in December since the chamber changed its rules, a White House official said.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Janet Yellen, Obama's pick to lead the Federal Reserve; Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., tapped to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency, and Jeh Johnson, the nominee to lead Homeland Security, could come up for confirmation votes in December with Democratic majorities, after the Senate voted in a 51-vote threshold to break a filibuster of most presidential appointees, Politico reported.

On Thursday, the Senate voted 52-48 to remove a requirement for a 60-vote majority on nominations other than those to the U.S. Supreme Court. Three Democrats -- Carl Levin of Michigan, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Joe Manchin of West Virginia -- joined all Republicans in voting against the change.

Earnest said the White House believes the change in the filibuster rules is a game-changer for future presidential nominees because the potential field could be expanded. Gone, too, is the prospect of a nominee waiting months to work through a filibuster-threatened confirmation process, he said.

"There have been qualified individuals who have withdrawn from the process because of the obstruction that they faced in the Senate," Earnest said Thursday during a media briefing.

The change -- sometimes called the "nuclear option" because of its potential to destroy bipartisan cooperation in the chamber -- allows most presidential appointments to be ratified with a simple majority.

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Original headline: WH: Rule change could be game-changer for future presidential nominees


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