Politics

Senate’s Filibuster Rule Change Should Help Obama Achieve Key Second-Term Priorities

[The Washington Post]

President Barack Obama gestures while speaking in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013. The president said he supports the move by Senate Democrats to make it harder for Republicans to block his nominees. Obama spoke shortly after the Senate voted 52-48 to weaken the power of the filibuster. The rule change will make it harder for minority Republicans to block confirmation of the president's nominees for judges and other top posts.(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
President Barack Obama gestures while speaking in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013. The president said he supports the move by Senate Democrats to make it harder for Republicans to block his nominees. Obama spoke shortly after the Senate voted 52-48 to weaken the power of the filibuster. The rule change will make it harder for minority Republicans to block confirmation of the president’s nominees for judges and other top posts.(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

The Senate vote Thursday to lower the barriers for presidential nominations should make it easier for President Obama to accomplish key second-term priorities, including tougher measures on climate change and financial regulation, that have faced intense opposition from Republicans in Congress.

The move to allow a simple majority vote on most executive and judicial nominees also sets the stage for Obama to appoint new top officials to the Federal Reserve and other key agencies — probably leading to more aggressive action to stimulate the economy and housing market. And it frees Obama to make changes to his Cabinet without the threat of long delays in the Senate before the confirmation of nominees.

The most immediate effect will be felt at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Widely regarded as second only to the Supreme Court in influence, it plays a central role in upholding or knocking down federal regulations. The panel is evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats but has three vacancies that Obama has been attempting to fill.

The court is likely to help decide whether Obama can enact new Environmental Protection Agency regulations limiting greenhouse-gas emissions by power plants — a key element of his second-term plan to combat climate change — as well as a variety of other rules affecting the environment and the financial industry.

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