WASHINGTON — Sen. Amy Klobuchar said the goodwill that came from the Senate’s agreement on filibuster rules this week could help Democrats confirm Minnesota U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones as head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Republicans have opposed Jones’ nomination, saying the Senate shouldn’t consider confirming Jones until internal affairs officials complete an investigation into complaints against him by a group of law enforcement colleagues. But even though lawmakers never formally changed filibuster rules this week, Klobuchar said senators had such a positive discussion on rules and procedure that Jones might be able to overcome that opposition.
The Senate’s filibuster compromise was pretty simple: Republicans agreed to confirm a slate of seven Obama nominees and Democrats agreed not to “go nuclear” and end filibusters on executive branch nominations.
The Senate confirmed Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Tuesday, and President Obama will rescind and replace the nominations of two National Labor Relations Board members he appointed during a congressional recess in exchange for guaranteed confirmation of his new ones. The deal is informal and only applies to the seven nominees before the Senate this week, and Republicans (and Senate minorities in the future) can still filibuster other nominees.
Still, Klobuchar said other nominations, including that of Jones, came up at a three-hour, closed-door meeting senators held Monday night.
“I mentioned [Jones] as an example as someone who has been doing two jobs for two years, and there are more than just these seven nominations,” Klobuchar said. “I think the goodwill that was generated from this week could help to get a number of nominations through, including his.”
The Senate got the power to confirm ATF nominees in 2006, but the bureau hasn’t had a full-time head since. White House officials told Politico Tuesday they had assumed Jones would never get to the floor if Judiciary Committee Republicans opposed his nomination, which they did unanimously last week, though they were heartened when Republicans dropped their long-held opposition to Cordray after their meeting with Democrats.
Still, only Democrats have said they’re optimistic about confirming Jones. Republicans, led by Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, have opposed him for a handful of reasons, and they haven’t indicated willingness to jump on board now. Since filibuster rules haven’t formally changed, there’s nothing preventing Republicans from blocking Jones if he comes to the floor for a vote.
That Monday meeting has been almost universally praised by senators who relished the opportunity to talk to one another in private. Klobuchar said she thinks it will lead to a new birth of bipartisanship in the Senate.
“It was an incredible meeting we had, three hours long, a third of the Senate speaking, and many of us have heard this in smaller groups you don’t always hear, really strong support for moving forward together,” she said at a press conference about a bipartisan media shield law bill she co-sponsors. “My hope is, and I said this at the meeting, that we can get through these nominations so we can get on to the real work we need to do, which is working on a long-term solution to the debt and working on comprehensive tax reform. We have some immediate things we need to do but I think that meeting bodes well for the future.”
Devin Henry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @dhenry