By Hill Staff - 07/16/13 11:53 PM EDT
The Senate went to the brink of nuclear conflict on Tuesday, but Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) chose not to push the button.
At the eleventh hour, he struck a bipartisan deal with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on a handful of Obama administration nominations that averted the filibuster rule change that enjoys the “nuclear” nickname.
The agreement stipulates that President Obama will nominate two people to the National Labor Relations Board to replace previous picks Sharon Block and Richard Griffin Jr.
Republicans had balked at Block and Griffin, noting that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit had ruled their recess appointments unconstitutional.
In exchange, the Senate GOP gave the green light to another NLRB appointee as well as to Richard Cordray, head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Cordray was confirmed Tuesday on a 71-29 vote.
The bottom line is that Reid got a lot of what he wanted. The NLRB will keep functioning with new nominees, and Democrats won their pitched battle to confirm Cordray.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who helped stem Republican progress toward the nuclear option in 2005, was a leading player in this week’s negotiations.
Reid has criticized McCain over the years, especially when the Republican was his party’s presidential nominee in 2008.
But on Tuesday, Reid lauded him.
“John McCain is the reason we’re at the point we are,” Reid said. “This is all directed toward John McCain from me. No one was able to break through but for him, and he does it at his own peril. I think it is going to be something that is good for the Senate.”
Had Reid gone through with the nuclear option, immigration reform would likely have died. McCain, an author of the bill that passed the Senate last month, did not want to jeopardize the landmark law over seven executive branch nominees.
It is telling that Reid dodged questions on the nuclear option in June as the immigration measure was winding its way through the upper chamber.
The filibuster showdown is over, but this week’s sweetness and light has a short shelf life. Fights over a government shutdown, the debt limit and immigration are all in plain sight.