It took the Democrats' threat to change Senate filibuster rules, but senators from both political parties came to their senses, and the logjam has broken over the confirmation of President Barack Obama's nominees. That is healthy for the Senate, and it is healthy for taxpayers who deserve a stable government with secure leaders running federal agencies and panels. Now lawmakers should build on this breakthrough and avoid another partisan stalemate that fuels distrust of Washington.
By the end of today, the Senate will have confirmed Fred Hochberg to head the Export-Import Bank, Gina McCarthy to run the Environmental Protection Agency and Tom Perez to head the Department of Labor. They follow Tuesday's long-stalled confirmation of Richard Cordray as the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Obama nominated Cordray two years ago, but Senate Republicans held up his confirmation because they dislike the protection bureau and the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reforms that created it. Disliking the role of a federal agency is no reason to hold up the confirmation of the person the president wants to run it.
The consumer protection bureau already has been be producing solid results. As Obama pointed out Wednesday, the bureau has dealt with more than 175,000 complaints from consumers on issues ranging from mortgages to student loans to debt collectors. Understandable information is easier to obtain about student loans and credit card forms, and veterans and seniors are better protected from scams. Yet without a director who had been confirmed by the Senate, the bureau was unable to use its full power to regulate transactions between borrowers and lenders.
As part of the agreement to avoid changing the filibuster rules, the Democrats agreed to stop supporting two of Obama's recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board and the president nominated two replacements. The NLRB has been operating with a cloud over its actions since the president's recess appointments to the board were found unconstitutional by a federal appellate court, and the issue will be reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court. A functioning NLRB, which investigates allegations of unfair labor practices, is an important protection for workers who may be exploited by their employers.
It should not take a manufactured crisis to force the end of partisan maneuvering. The president will be nominating a new secretary for the Department of Homeland Security and a number of federal appeals court judges. Those nominations will deserve a fair confirmation Senate process that builds on this week's detente, and they should not be held up by filibuster threats that serve no purpose other than to obstruct.