EDITORIAL: Deal doesn't end problem; filibuster reform is a must

July 19, 2013 

The new watchdog Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, established with the Wall Street Reform Act of 2010, finally has a director who can hold financial institutions accountable.

Richard Cordray, Ohio's former attorney general and former treasurer, was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, after senators voted 71 to 29 to end the two-year-long minority Republican filibuster of his nomination.

This two-year-long obstruction of a clearly qualified nominee is yet another item in a long catalog of abuses of the filibuster, rules that allow a minority of senators to force the majority to assemble 60 votes to cut off debate and move legislation to an up-or-down vote.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had threatened to change the filibuster rules if minority Republicans did not allow up-or-down votes on seven nominees to President Barack Obama's Cabinet and other executive appointments.

So senators met in the Old Senate Chamber and struck a deal. In addition to Cordray, the Senate will vote on the president's nominations to head the Labor Department, Environmental Protection Agency and Export-Import Bank. The Senate also will vote on three nominees to the National Labor Relations Board, giving that board a full slate of five Senate-confirmed members for the first time in a decade.

This temporary truce is fine, but it does nothing to end minority obstructionism on judicial appointments and legislation -- or future appointments. This deal should be the last of its kind struck in the Senate. It is long past time to change the filibuster rules.

The reality is that the Senate had no filibusters until 1830, and they were used only rarely, on matters of principle. Until 1970, the Senate averaged fewer than two filibusters a year. But since 2007, the GOP minority has used the filibuster hundreds of times a year. No longer do senators attempt to put together a majority coalition to carry the day.

The Senate needs to set limits on debate and guarantee up-or-down votes on executive appointments, judicial nominees and legislation.

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