WASHINGTON — President Obama applauded Senate Democrats Thursday for changing the rules on filibusters, saying too many of his nominees and initiatives have been blocked by Republicans for strictly partisan reasons.
"Over the past five years we've seen an unprecedented pattern of obstruction in Congress that's prevented too much of the American people's business from getting done," Obama said during a brief statement at the White House.
Obama has long complained about Republican attempts to block his nominees to courts and other federal offices, as well as various legislative proposals.
Calling it "an unprecedented pattern of obstruction," Obama also protested GOP actions to prevent up-or-down Senate votes on bills devoted to immigration, gun control, equal pay for women, jobs, and other issues.
Senate Democrats voted Thursday to change filibuster rules, overturning decades of precedent and clearing the way for approval of Obama appointees on a simple majority vote.
The previous rules required 60 votes to end a filibuster; the new one requires a simple majority of 51, and the Democratic caucus currently controls 55 Senate votes.
The change does not affect nominees for the Supreme Court. Nor does it apply to legislation, though Obama suggested he wouldn't mind seeing that change as well.
Republicans decried the new rules and said they could come back to haunt the Democrats in future Senates controlled by the GOP.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and other Republicans noted that Obama supported filibusters during his years in the U.S. Senate.
Under the new rules, more Obama appointees to judgeships and federal offices will probably be approved; the Senate has the exclusive right to confirm presidential nominees.
If new rules are applied to legislation, the Democratic-run Senate could theoretically approve Obama-backed bills on immigration, gun control, and other items. But those items would still have to be approved by the Republican-run House of Representatives.
In his White House statement, Obama said "neither party has been blameless for these tactics," but "a deliberate and determined effort to obstruct everything — no matter what the merits, just to refight the results of an election — is not normal. And for the sake of future generations we can't let it become normal."
Obama said that, in the six decades before he took office in 2009, only 20 nominees to executive jobs had to overcome filibusters. Since he took office, Obama said, "nearly 30 nominees have been treated this way."
As for judicial nominees, Obama said his picks have waited "nearly two-and-a-half times longer" than those of predecessor George W. Bush.
"This isn't obstruction on substance, on qualifications," Obama said. "It's just to gum up the works."