October 29, 2013
The Capitol (J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)
The Capitol (J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

Pretty big news out of the Senate this afternoon: The Senate defeated a filibuster and invoked cloture on the nomination of Richard Griffin to be National Labor Relations Board general counsel. In fact, it wasn’t even that close; the final vote was 62-37.

As you may recall, Griffin was the sacrifice in the executive branch nomination “deal” over the summer, which we can now confirm was pretty much a flat-out surrender. Griffin had been nominated for the board (and in fact placed on the board with a recess appointment), but his nomination was withdrawn as part of the deal. Instead, the Senate rapidly confirmed a replacement nominee that Obama (and labor) was equally happy with, and now Griffin will be confirmed as counsel to the board.

We’ll see what happens going forward, of course, but so far the “deal” has been better for the majority Democrats than I expected. Not that it’s unfair; Republicans still have the capacity to slow things up and (presumably) to use nominations to get leverage over agency behavior, and they never really had the leverage to enforce nullification once majority Democrats decided to do something about it.

I’d still like to see cloture for executive branch nominations reduced to a simple majority (and I’d guess so would the Republicans who have to tag-team to provide the cloture margin for controversial nominees). But at least the process seems to be moving a lot better.

I should mention, by the way, that the reporting on this one was pretty murky before the fact; everyone agreed the nomination was controversial, and that a filibuster would have to be overcome, but it wasn’t clear from anything I had seen that Griffin had the votes. Does this suggest anything about the outcome of future fights, especially on judicial picks? I have no idea! But it would be great to get some more reporting on it.