Senators fail to reach 'nuclear option' deal, but some hopeful
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Senators reached a tentative bipartisan deal to avert the so-called "nuclear option" on Senate rules, a change that would have drawn Republican ire and stalled major legislation.
At issue was what Democrats call unnecessary and lengthy delays of seven of President Barack Obama's nominees.
While Democrats control the chamber, they need Republicans to reach the 60-vote threshold necessary for getting anything through.
Senate rules allow for one member to hold up any piece of legislation or appointment, making the filibuster a powerful political weapon for Republicans in a sharply partisan political climate.
Under the deal, Republicans agreed to lift them and allow confirmation votes, while Democrats said they would withdraw two contentious nominees to the National Labor Relations Board.
Obama responded with two new nominations: Nancy Schiffer and Kent Hirozawa.
Obama put the original appointees in office during a period when he says the Senate was in recess.
But Republicans who have chafed at the composition and decision making of the labor board, held up confirmation votes for months.
The NLRB has been a political lightning rod with conservatives angry over its composition and what it considers a pro-union agenda at the expense of business.
As evidence of the agreement, the Senate confirmed Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The agency was created after the 2008 financial crisis and Cordray has been running it on an acting basis.
More votes are likely on other pending nominees.
Obama said he was pleased with the development.
"Over the last two years, I've nominated leaders to fill important positions required to do the work of the American people, only to have those positions remain unfilled -- not because the nominees were somehow unqualified, but for purely political reasons," he said in a statement.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had threatened to take the "nuclear option" to change the rules in order to prevent filibusters of executive branch nominations. This would have allowed them to be confirmed on a simple majority vote of 51.
Reid had warned Republicans if they continued blocking some of Obama's Cabinet and agency picks, he would make the drastic move without their consent.
Such a move would have brought sharp opposition from Republicans, who have threatened to block legislation as a consequence.
Any use of the "nuclear option" would have stalled passage of several important items moving through Congress, like tax reform, judicial nominations, government spending bills and a debt ceiling increase.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the White House "was not involved in negotiating" the tentative deal but provided information and answered questions.