The Communications Workers of America, who have been pushing for filibuster reform as part of their overall pro-democracy campaign, cheered when the Senate voted 52-48 on Nov. 21 to curb the use of the talkathons.

Doing so will clear the way for Senate approval of presidential nominees to key executive branch posts and federal court seats – both important in carrying out policies that affect workers and their allies, the union said. 

But the filibuster rules change doesn’t go all the way: The talkathons, and the 60-vote requirements to both start regular debate and votes and to halt the filibusters, still remain against legislation, such as the Employee Free Choice Act.

“The Senate action re-enforces the intent of…the U.S. Constitution, which clearly states the Senate’s obligation of advice and consent is based on majority support, not super-majority support. This is a good first step toward restoring a Senate that functions as an integral part of our democracy,” said CWA President Larry Cohen.

Cohen also debunked Republican claims that the rules change is “nuclear” and revolutionary. “Instead, it is the Republicans’ recent strategy of preventing up-or-down votes on qualified nominees without respect to their merits that has been a radical departure from Senate history,” he said.

 “Working people expect their leaders to maintain a functioning government that works for them and the labor movement will continue to hold those leaders accountable to do just that,” added AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. He said the GOP uses the filibuster to try to nullify the results of the 2012 presidential election.

A fed-up Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., pushed through the rules change after constant GOP filibusters – upheld by getting at least 41 votes every time to bar up-or-down decisions – halted three Obama administration nominations to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. That court rules on most appeals from National Labor Relations Board and other agency cases affecting workers.

The change requires only a simple majority of senators to vote for debate and ultimate up-or-down votes on judges, except Supreme Court justices, and executive branch and regulatory agency nominees. 

That includes NLRB nominees. The GOP had used the filibuster rule to prevent up-or-down votes on Democratic President Barack Obama’s NLRB hopefuls until lawmakers reached a last-minute compromise in August – sidelining the filibuster rules change Reid planned then. But the Republicans then broke that compromise on the appeals court judges and Reid, having had it, pushed the rules change through.   

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