Senate changes filibuster rules, clearing the way for confirmation of stalled judicial nominees

The U.S. Senate has voted to change its filibuster rules to ease the way for confirmation of the president’s judicial and executive branch nominations.

The vote to approve the so-called nuclear option was 52-48, report the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN and the Los Angeles Times. As a result, only a simple majority will be required to break a filibuster, rather than a 60-vote supermajority.

The filibuster change does not apply to Supreme Court nominations.

The Times calls the change “the most fundamental shift in the way the Senate functions in more than a generation.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., triggered the vote when he proposed reconsideration of Patricia Millet, who was nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Millett and two other nominees to the D.C. Circuit have been blocked by filibusters.

Justice at Stake released a statement saying nearly 10 percent of federal judicial seats remain unfilled. “While we are dismayed that it had to come to this, today’s developments leave the fair-courts movement hopeful that the Senate might move forward to expeditiously schedule and hold up-or-down votes on judicial nominees,” the statement said.

Was the procedural change proper? Republicans claim the Democrats were “breaking the rules to change the rules,” according to the Los Angeles Times article. They pointed to Senate rules requiring a two-thirds vote for rule changes. Democrats countered that the Constitution allows the Senate to change its own rules at any time.

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