WASHINGTON Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid threatened to invoke the so-called "nuclear" option to change the Senate's filibuster rules if Republicans do not allow a vote on the nominations of Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and six other Obama administration appointees.
The move is a shot across the bow at Senate Republicans, who have put up a vigorous fight over Cordray for two years, citing concerns about the CFPB's structure. Republicans have refused to allow a vote on the nomination, even though several have acknowledged publicly he is qualified for the job.
Reid is weighing whether to change Senate rules for executive nominations so that they are decided by a simple majority, which has been dubbed the "nuclear option."
"The Constitution gives the president the right and the power to choose his team. And it grants the Senate the right to advise and consent. But consistent and unprecedented obstruction by the Republican Caucus has turned 'advise and consent' into 'deny and obstruct,'" Reid said during a floor speech earlier in the day. "Republicans' obstruction has denied President Obama the ability to choose his team. Whether you're a Democrat, a Republican, or an Independent, we should all be able to agree that Presidents deserve the team members they want. And their nominees should be subject to simple up-or-down votes."
Senate Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson and the other Democratic members of the banking panel wrote a letter to Sen. Mitch McConnell, the chamber's minority leader, on Thursday, urging him to allow a vote on Cordray.
"Richard Cordray was first nominated nearly two years ago. Our committee has acted twice in favorably reporting Mr. Cordray's nomination for the full Senate's consideration. The time has come for the Senate to act," Democrats said in the letter. "We ask that you and the members of your caucus change course, end the filibuster of Mr. Cordray's nomination, and allow Richard Cordray's nomination to be ratified or rejected by an up-or-down vote."
Republicans have said they will not allow a vote on Cordray's nomination until Democrats agree to change the structure of the CFPB, including replacing the agency's director with a five-member board and putting the agency through the Congressional appropriations process.