The Senate on Tuesday morning voted to advance the nomination of Richard Cordray to serve as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, dodging a messy showdown over the filibuster rule.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) threatened to trigger the so-called nuclear option to move Cordray if Republicans blocked him. The controversial tactic would have involved stripping Republicans of the power to filibuster executive branch nominees by changing the rules through a simple majority vote.
Reid announced a deal on several of President Obama’s nominees shortly before the vote but declined to reveal details.
“We may have a way forward on this,” Reid announced on the Senate floor. “I feel fairly confident.”
“We have got i’s to dot and t’s to cross,” he added, indicating he would consult with Vice President Biden and other Senate Democratic leaders before signing off.
The framework of the agreement allows for Corday to pass and calls on the president to pick two new nominees to the National Labor Relations Board to replace pending nominees Sharon Block and Richard Griffin Jr., said Senate aides.
In return, Republicans will allow Mark Pearce, the third nominee to the board, along with Cordray to advance to final votes.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) previously signaled he would allow final votes on three other nominees: Tom Perez to serve as Labor secretary; Gina McCarthy to serve as Environmental Protection Agency administrator; and Fred Hochberg to serve as president of the Export-Import Bank.
Republicans opposed Block and Griffin because Obama recess-appointed them in January of 2012, a move later ruled invalid by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Obama recess-appointed Cordray to the consumer protection bureau on the same day.
A Senate aide said the final details on the agreement need to be hashed out, echoing what Reid said on the floor.
The successful vote on Cordray gives Reid and McConnell eight hours of post-cloture debate to put the finishing touches on the compromise.
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) hinted to reporters Thursday night that Republicans would allow Cordray to move forward, noting “the NLRB is the real point of contention.”
The labor board has repeatedly run afoul of Republicans during Obama's time in office. The biggest fight came two years ago, when the NLRB accused Boeing of violating federal labor laws when it attempted to open an aircraft plant in South Carolina, a right-to-work state.
The move led Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to call the agency “the Grim Reaper of job creation.”
Reid called on Republicans at a joint caucus meeting Monday night to support Cordray.
“The leader kept asking for six Republicans. ‘We need six Republicans. We just need six Republicans. Six Republicans come with us, then that’s it. Then all these nominees can be approved.’ He said that’s the answer,” Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said.
Republicans have been holdingd up Cordray, who once clerked for conservative Judge Robert Bork and centrist Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, to demand changes to the framework of the consumer bureau, a key reform of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act.
Republicans wanted to replace the bureau’s sole director with a bipartisan board of directors and make its funding subject to congressional appropriations to give lawmakers more influence over it.
Sen. Mike Enzi (Wyo.), a senior Republican on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, spoke out against agency before the vote.
“The reason this is of utmost concern to me and has been for the past three years is the lack of congressional oversight and [the] blatant privacy intrusions of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau,” he said.
Enzi objected to the bureau’s revenue stream, which is through the federal reserve instead of the Congress.
“The bureau, as allowed by the Dodd-Frank Act, could collect up to $600 million every year but is not subject to the congressional appropriations process,” he said.