Updated 3:16 p.m.
The Senate appeared to strike a deal Tuesday that allows Richard Cordray's confirmation as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, clearing a cloud of legal uncertainty that has hung over the agency since he began that role after a recess appointment.
A vote Tuesday came after a week of brinkmanship about changing Senate rules, in which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) threatened to use the so-called "nuclear option" to strip the ability of Republicans to filibuster executive nominations.
Reid hinted today that there was a broader deal on seven blocked executive nominations, including confirmation votes for Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez for Labor secretary and nominees for the National Labor Relations Board.
Democrats and Republicans planned to meet with their caucuses early this afternoon to iron out details of the plan. "I think everyone will be happy," Reid said on the Senate floor. "It is a compromise and I think we get what we want and they get what they want. Not a bad deal."
The Senate voted 71-29 to break a Republican block on Cordray, surpassing the 60 votes needed to end debate on his nomination and allow a vote. That means Cordray and other nominees could get a vote as early as this afternoon.
The deal also allows confirmation votes on NLRB members, provided that President Barack Obama replace two of the more controversial nominees with new nominees, who would be guaranteed confirmation votes before September, The Huffington Post reported.
Republicans have blocked appointments to the NLRB and CFPB because President Barack Obama nominated Cordray and two NLRB members during a January 2012 recess, a move that federal appellate courts in Washington and Philadelphia have declared unconstitutional.
The fate of Cordray's nomination—as well as five nominees to the NLRB—has been tied in part to a January decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. A three-judge panel ruled in Noel Canning v. NLRB that the recess appointments of two board members were unconstitutional.
That government has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the decision. If the controversial ruling is upheld, all board decisions since the appointments were made in January 2012 could be vacated for lack of a quorum.
A Senate confirmation of Cordray, first nominated two years ago, could essentially render that argument moot. Republicans had filed legislation to freeze the agencies during that legal challenge, calling continued work a "regulatory train wreck."
A Cordray confirmation would give legitimacy to the agency's authority under the Dodd Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Proctection Act, said Joseph Lynyak, a partner with Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman in the Washington and Los Angeles offices.
The law couched about half of all the power based on the valid appointment of the first director, Lynyak said. With the Senate's confirmation, instead of the recess appointment, "all of that authority is clearly now without challenge," he said.
Legal challenges to many regulations and agency actions, such as the recent mortgage regulations, would have minimal chance of success if they are based on Cordray’s possibly unconstitutional recess appointment, Lynyak said.
“I would not be surprised if the CFPB reaffirmed his actions, which more or less covers more or less all the bases of the authority for him to take the actions,” Lynyak said.
Tuesday's deal affects only executive nominations, not judicial nominations. Reid said Monday he has no plans to change on Senate's filibuster rules on judicial nominations. "I'm very comfortable with where we are now," he told a crowd at the Center for American Progress.