WASHINGTON – The Senate voted by the slimmest margin Wednesday to end a filibuster against President Barack Obama’s choice to head the Labor Department as this week’s agreement averting a poisonous partisan clash on nominations and the chamber’s rules barely survived its toughest test so far.
By 60-40, senators rejected Republican objections and voted to halt delaying tactics aimed at killing Thomas Perez’s nomination to become labor secretary.
It takes 60 votes to end filibusters. With all 52 Democrats and both Democratic-leaning independents voting to halt the delays, Republicans supplied the minimum number of votes needed to keep Perez’s selection alive – six.
In so doing, the GOP seemed to signal that while they would adhere to the agreement, their ranks bristled with unhappiness for the deal itself and against Perez in particular. In the deal announced Tuesday, top Republicans agreed to end delays against seven stalled Obama nominations and Democrats promised to drop efforts to change Senate rules to limit filibusters.
Perez is a top Justice Department official whom Republicans have criticized for his handling of a whistle-blower case against the city of St. Paul, Minn. Republicans voting to end the Perez filibuster were Sens. John McCain of Arizona, an architect of this week’s deal, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Susan Collins of Maine, Bob Corker of Tennessee, Mark Kirk of Illinois and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
It was not clear when the Senate would vote on final confirmation of Perez’s nomination, but it was expected soon.
Minutes earlier, senators voted 82-17 to approve Fred Hochberg to a second four-year term to head the Export-Import Bank, which provides financing for U.S. exporters.