The New York Times reports:
In a move that could bring to a head six months of smoldering tensions over a Republican blockade of certain presidential nominees, Senate Democrats are preparing to force confirmation votes on a series of President Obama’s most contentious appointments as early as this week.
If Republicans object, Democrats plan to threaten to use the impasse to change the Senate rules that allow the minority party wide latitude to stymie action…
Their plans represent a shift in strategy. Instead of picking fights over judges nominated by the president, where much of the tension has arisen this year, Democrats are likely to focus only on agency appointees. For example, they would line up a series of votes on nominees to run the Environmental Protection Agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Labor Department and a politically important labor oversight board.
The rule change they would seek is intended to be limited. It would allow senators to continue to filibuster legislation and judges, but not appointments to federal agencies or cabinet posts…
Democrats are still strategizing over how best to proceed, but the nominees they have talked about putting forward first are those for vacant seats on the National Labor Relations Board, the government entity that has become a major source of contention in the fight over confirmations between the White House and Senate Republicans.
The others are also divisive: Richard Cordray as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Thomas E. Perez as secretary of labor and Gina McCarthy as director of the E.P.A.
“What’s particularly galling to us is there are certain vacancies that haven’t been filled not because the Republicans have anything against the nominee,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, the No. 3 Senate Democrat. “But rather because they just dislike the agencies and they don’t want them to function.”