Reid sets up Senate showdown, calls for votes on nominees

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Thursday afternoon scheduled several votes to end debate on a slew of executive branch nominees, including several staunchly opposed by Republicans.

The procedural maneuver sets up a showdown with Republicans next week over the Senate’s filibuster rule. Reid and other Democratic leaders urged colleagues in a private meeting earlier in the day to support changing the rule if Republicans blocked the nominees.

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Reid set votes to end debate and to proceed to a final votes on several nominees, including Richard Cordray, who is President Obama’s pick to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and Obama's picks for the National Labor Relations Board.

Republicans say the nominees to the labor board — Sharon Block, Richard Griffin Jr. and Mark Gaston Pearce — should be rejected because Obama violated the Constitution by recess-appointing them while Congress was holding pro forma sessions. Republicans point to a D.C. Circuit Court ruling that the appointments were invalid.

He also set up votes to end debate on Gina McCarthy’s nomination to head the Environmental Protection Agency, Tom Perez’s nomination to head the Labor Department and Fred Hochberg’s nomination to serve as president of the Export-Import Bank.

The ultimatum to confirm the nominees or lose their power to filibuster outraged Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), who called it a “sad day in the Senate”.

McConnell warned that Reid would go down in history as "the worst leader of the Senate ever” if he went ahead with the nuclear option. 

"Now our request for a joint meeting of all the senators has been set for Monday night, a time when attendance around here is frequently quite spotty in an obvious effort to keep as many of his members from hearing the concerns and arguments of the other side as possible," McConnell said.