Obama: ‘Gridlock Has Not Served the Cause of Justice’

Photograph by Win McNamee/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) with Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) at the U.S. Capitol on Nov. 21, 2013 in Washington, DC.

The Senate’s “nuclear” move to clear a political roadblock of the president’s judicial nominees today was necessary in a Congress stalemated by “obstruction,” he said today.

“It’s no secret that the American people probably have never been more frustrated with Washington,” President Barack Obama said in a White House appearance after the Senate’s action, citing “an unprecedented pattern of obstruction in Congress.”

It’s not only presidential nominees that have been blocked, he said — pointing to the Senate’s failure to enact a bipartisan plan for background checks for gun-buyers for lack of 60 votes.

“A simple majority vote” seems no longer acceptable for anything, he said. “This obstruction gets even worse when it comes to the judiciary… This gridlock has not served the cause of justice.”

The Senate enacted a major change to its rules today, paving the way to allow a simple majority to confirm nominees for executive branch jobs and most judicial posts.

The Senate voted 52-48 on a procedural issue that effectively ends the requirement that at least 60 votes are needed to advance nominations, except for those to the Supreme Court, as Bloomberg’s Kathleen Hunter reports.


In Capitol parlance, this exercise of majority-party authority to break the minority party’s block of the president’s nominees is known as “the nuclear option.’

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada today said that, in the years since the nation was founded, half of the 168 nominees delayed in the Senate using the procedure were the candidates of President Barack Obama.

“Is there anything fair about that?” Reid said before lawmakers began debating the changes. “The American people believe the Senate is broken, and I believe the American people are right.”

Sen. Thad Cochran, a Mississippi Republican, said the move “diminishes the power of the Senate to join with the executive in making certain decisions that are unique to our government.”

The president maintained that this is a question of majority rule, which has been subverted for political reasons — his judicial appointees facing higher hurdles than any before him.

“Public service is not a game — it’s a privilege,” said Obama, noting that both he and Vice President Joe Biden are former senators. “Ultimately, if you’ve got a majority of folks who believe in something, then it should be able to pass.”

“The gears of government have to work.”

See Slate’s take on how the American media would be writing about this if this were another country we were writing about.

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