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Posted by on Feb 3, 2013 in Featured, Politics | 13 comments

Will Harry Reid’s Filibuster Deal With McConnell Bite Him On the You-Know-What?

Will Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s compromise deal on the filibuster (which some critics say was no filibuster reform at all) with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell come back to bite Reid on the you-know-what? It sounds that way — and the chomp may come in record time:

Senate Republicans are renewing their vow to block any nominee to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) unless major changes are made to its structure.

In a letter sent to President Obama on Friday, 43 Republican senators committed to refusing approval of any nominee to head the consumer watchdog until the bureau underwent significant reform. Lawmakers signing on to the letter included Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), the ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee.

“The CFPB as created by the deeply flawed Dodd-Frank Act is one of the least accountable in Washington,” said McConnell. “Today’s letter reaffirms a commitment by 43 Senators to fix the poorly thought structure of this agency that has unprecedented reach and control over individual consumer decisions — but an unprecedented lack of oversight and accountability.”

The two GOP senators who did not sign on to the letter were Sens. Bob Corker (Tenn.) and Rob Portman (Ohio). Corker is instead looking at legislative ways to boost the bureau’s accountability, according to his spokeswoman. And Portman sent a letter to Cordray Friday calling on him to back the GOP-preferred changes as a way to prove his independence from the White House.

The refreshed blockade comes just days after President Obama re-nominated Richard Cordray to serve as CFPB director. The president installed Cordray in the position one year ago, using a controversial recess appointment after running into similar Republican opposition.

“The American people need Richard to keep standing up for them,” the president said when he made the pick. “And there’s absolutely no excuse for the Senate to wait any longer to confirm him.”

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) dismissed the latest GOP pronouncement as “just politics at play.”

“The CFPB enjoys overwhelming public support, and there is no evidence that the bureau is unaccountable and that structural changes are necessary,” Johnson said. “The market needs certainty, and blocking Richard Cordray’s nomination is a disservice to consumers and industry alike.”

Cordray’s recess appointment, due to run through the end of 2013, has come under fresh scrutiny, with many believing the move could be ruled unconstitutional. One week ago, a federal appeals court ruled that a trio of recess appointments made the same day to the National Labor Relations Board were unconstitutional, leading many to believe it is only a matter of time under Cordray’s appointment faces a similar fate.

It’ll be interesting to see how many times GOPers use the filibuster after President Barack Obama gives the State of the Union and presents his agenda that he wants enacted. Once upon a time, the filibuster WAS the “nuclear option” in Congress — not used routinely but lingering as the ultimate threat. Now it is a routine tool used by the minority party in Congress to halt the majority from enacting policies that polls may indicate have wide support among the populace.

But, reports suggest, this was one of the key reasons Reid decided not to touch much of the way the filibuster now operates: he knows that it is a certainty Democrats will not remain in the majority forever and feels its better for the Dems to absorb any setbacks than to change the rules so one day Democrats in the minority are not completely powerless.

Some (including these folks) make the strong argument that tinkering with the filibuster by letting the majority party steamroll rules changes in the Senate could threaten democracy.

Still, this report suggests that in coming weeks Harry Reid may find that the consquences of his compromise make it a bit painful to sit down.

Talking Points Memo:

For now, Richard Cordray remains CFPB director, thanks to a recess appointment. But that appointment expires at the end of the year, and could come to an end earlier thanks to the DC circuit court, which ruled that similar appointments to a different regulatory body were unconstitutional.

This is a real problem. Without a director, the CFPB loses a lot of its power. But the milquetoast rules reforms that passed last week give Harry Reid no parliamentary tools to pry the GOP off its position. Short of battling it out with Republicans in the public sphere and hoping they crack, President Obama will see one of his signature accomplishments neutered by what amounts to an ad hoc legislative line item veto…by a congressional minority.

Unless Reid decides to play hardball. The court decision, and McConnell’s renewed filibuster threat seem to have caught him by surprise somehow. But if at some point later this year it becomes clear Republicans will continue to block Cordray past the end of his recess appointment, Reid could in theory revisit the filibuster reform fight.

And for what it’s worth, Republicans won’t be able to claim they weren’t warned. Here’s what he said after the rules reform package passed.

“It is my hope that these reforms will help restore a spirit of comity and bipartisan cooperation. If these reforms do not do enough to end the gridlock here in Washington, we will consider doing more in the future.”

FOOTNOTE: Will Republicans use the filibuster to try and halt the confirmation of Senator Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense? It increasingly sounds unlikely — and increasingly sounds as if Hagel will have the votes to be confirmed, once again putting Arizona Senator John McCain AGAIN on not just the losing side of the vote but most likely in an unflattering light in future political histories. McCain is carving out a special niche in American political history: look up the word “grudge” in a future political dictionary, and you’ll see McCain’s picture in it. The Politico:

Sen. Mike Johanns said Saturday he will support the nomination of former Sen. Chuck Hagel — a fellow Nebraska Republican — to be secretary of defense.

“Chuck earned this endorsement,” Johanns told the Lincoln Journal Star.

Asked to confirm the report, Johanns’s communications director, Nick Simpson, said in an email he would “just refer you back to that article.”

The news comes after Hagel’s confirmation hearing Thursday before the Senate Armed Services Committee, when the Obama nominee took heat from Republicans over his record on Iran, Israel and the Iraq war.

“Do not think he got a pass from me because he’s a friend,” Johanns added, saying Hagel’s reassurance about his view of U.S.-Israel relations was key.

Johanns also said that Hagel is set to hold more private meetings on the Hill this week, including with Republicans, and that “he believes Hagel can acquire more than 60 votes for Senate confirmation if the nomination encounters a Republican filibuster, but he’s beginning to think only a majority vote may be required.”

If GOPers filibuster Hagel’s nomination (HIGHLY UNLIKELY) then expect to see Reid under a ton of pressure from Democratic Party progressives to revisit the filibuster. And for partisan war to rage at an unprecedented level for the next two years.

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  • dduck

    Harry, the buck stops at your door. Prepare to do the right thing and let’s get rid of empty chair, nonsense filibusters. Are you worried that some day your side may be in the minority?

  • The_Ohioan

    Early days. If the GOP hears from its masters that this obstructionism is costing them money, more than a leaderless CFPB will, it will cooperate. The CFPB will operate even without a director just not as well – like the ATF. The further loss of votes, however, will not work very well for the GOP.

    Harry knows how to take a few hits; he used to be a boxer.

  • ordinarysparrow

    The old proverbial; give an inch they take a mile…

    We are beginning to see the new GOP strategy to undermine any progress by the current administration….Scuttle and block as many appointments as possible…another four years of total opposition to anything Obama…

  • dduck

    Ohio, he probably took too many hits or he would have fixed the filibuster, it is “the right thing to do”. BTW: you can’t always blame the GOP just because they oppose some measures. Isn’t it possible that for instance that the CFPB is a flawed agency? Nah, the GOP can’t be right or question anything, they should just do whatever Obama wants and roll over.

  • The_Ohioan


    As you, and the article, said – he’s concerned about a majority steamrolling over the minority party no matter which party is the majority. Plus he remembers how the filibuster is supposed to work which, like abortion, should be legal, safe, and rare.

    It’s possible the CFPB is flawed; is the filibuster to prevent a candidate to head it the answer? Is the Senate, “the world’s greatest deliberative body” unable to correct such flaws without a filibuster? Anything is possible, but not necessarily probable.

  • dduck

    “no matter which party is the majority” Oh, how fair is that, guess I misjudged him.

  • dduck

    “The CFPB enjoys overwhelming public support, and there is no evidence that the bureau is unaccountable and that structural changes are necessary,” Johnson said. “The market needs certainty, and blocking Richard Cordray’s nomination is a disservice to consumers and industry alike.”

    “The bureau is nominally part of the Fed, which is obligated to finance its budget, but the central bank may not influence its personnel or rules.”
    Got that, may not.”
    Hmmm, no need to worry you GOP obstructionists.

  • petew

    It’s too bad that Obama, or any President, is ever forced to use a recess appointment gimmick in order to overcome indefinite stalling by the opposition. I understand that numerous nominees being considered for appointments, made by Obama, have been continuously thwarted by the manipulations of procedural rules in the senate. Often, even though the Judiciary committee, also composed partly by Republicans, had long before approved of appointments suggested by him! This trick of using procedural rules, tends to postpone confirmation of these appointees—potentially until the advent of the next geological ice age—and consequently, some appointments are just ignored until they are no longer relevant.

    The GOP claims that the CFPB is flawed and without accountability, but, judging from past Republican attempts at mutiny, the chances are, they really think an agency designed to protect consumers, represents way too much authority which is capable of making financial institutions themselves more accountable. In any case, I like the Ohioan’s observation that it shouldn’t require filibustering candidates to bring sufficient oversight into the mix.

    Personally, I think that the filibuster, is a political dinosaur without much merit. If one party doesn’t like to be steamrolled by the other, isn’t a straight majority vote more indicative of real Democratic principles rather than allowing a much smaller minority, representing a correspondingly smaller amount of voters, to stall legislative action indefinitely? I don’t think this procedural monster should ever have been unleashed in the first place!

  • The_Ohioan

    GOP obstruction? What GOP obstruction?

    In May 2011, Republican senators made clear that they would block a vote on any nominee, even a Republican, demanding instead that the agency replace a single leader with a board of directors. They argued that the agency had too much power and was unaccountable.

    Apparently, also from your link, dd, the CFPB can monitor banks but not other financial institutions until an administrator is confirmed. That’s a load off; all those subprime lenders and derivitive sellers won’t have to worry, yet.
    $$$$$ – you can’t beat it.

  • dduck

    petew said: “It’s too bad that Obama, or any President, is ever forced to use a recess appointment gimmick in order to overcome indefinite stalling by the opposition.” I agree.
    petew said: “the chances are, they really think an agency designed to protect consumers, represents way too much authority which is capable of making financial institutions themselves more accountable.” Don’t agree.
    There are agencies and laws and regulations already in existence that COULD do the job, but they don’t, won’t or are poorly managed. Of course their powers need to be expanded or revivified.
    The point is the CFPB MAY not be correctly oversighted, will cost a bundle, and still may not do a good job. Yes, a lot of mays, but maybe the Reps have a point.
    I know from experience that, for instance, the financial services industry is over regulated in an effort to “protect” the public. (We have FINRA, the SEC and state insurance regulators.) But when the Fed, that supplies funding and I think congress, can’t influence personnel or rule decisions at the CFPB, you have to wonder a little.

  • slamfu

    Harry Reid is an anchor around the neck of his party. Any forward progress made by the Democrats was done in spite of him and not because of him. This filibuster deal is just another example of why they need to replace him asap. I seriously hope the GOP runs someone other than another Sharon Angle when Reid’s term comes up.

  • The_Ohioan

    Still, using a filibuster to keep the Executive Branch from appointing a director of a federal program, which was legislated by Congress themselves, is simply stupid. That’s not the way our government works. If you don’t like a law, change it or repeal it, but to try to stop any legislation from being implemented through a filibuster is non-government in its most irresponsible form. The consequences of such irresponsibility being successful would be the complete breakdown of the legislative process now and in the future.

  • dduck

    Tell that to Harry.

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