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CNN Reporter Asks WH Spox if Obama’s Nuclear Option Support Is ‘Hypocritical’

Following President Obama‘s surprise appearance in the Brady Briefing Room Thursday to discuss the Senate rule change that passed yesterday, White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest briefed reporters for over an hour. The filibuster rule change was a frequent topic, as when CNN’s Brianna Keilar asked Earnest about the President’s previous opposition, as US Senator in 2005, to the so-called “nuclear option” in relation to his current support for it.

“In 2005, President Obama opposed the so-called nuclear option in favor of free and democratic debate,” Keilar said. “Some people look at his change and say that it’s hypocritical. How is it not?”

Earnest began by reading another quote from 2005.  “I think the President is entitled to an up-or-down vote that is a simple majority vote on nominations, both to his Cabinet and to the executive branch and also to the judiciary,” Earnest said, adding “That is a pretty cogent statement of the White House’s views on this topic. That also is a word-for-word statement of Senator McConnell’s views in the spring of 2005. So I do think that this is an area where there is some bipartisan agreement.”

“Just not at the same time?” cracked Jon Karl.

“The other thing that I would point out,” Earnest continued, “is that the circumstances have unfortunately changed for the worse since 2005.”

He added that when President Obama took office, “there were 59 judicial vacancies. There are now 93 of them. Over that same period of time, the judicial nominees under President Bush — or the judicial vacancies under President Bush went from 84 to 49. So the trend has started moving in the opposite direction that — President Bush had some success in confirming his nominees, judicial nominees to the bench. Under President Obama, the obstruction has actually ramped up the number of vacancies that we have in the judiciary right now.”

Earnest also pointed out, as the President had, that the nominees are not being delayed or blocked “because Republicans have a material objection to the President’s nominees. Many of the President’s nominees have been blocked repeatedly only to get — only to be confirmed with strong bipartisan support.”

Keilar also asked if the President would like to see this rule change as “permanent or temporary?”

“What the President would like to see is an end to a circumstance where the filibuster is the go-to move in the Republican playbook,” Earnest said. “That rather than careful consideration of the nominees, the Republicans are just gumming up the works.”

Here’s the video, from The White House:


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