"I support the step a majority of senators took to change the way that Washington is doing business. More specifically, the way the Senate does business," Obama said during remarks in the White House briefing room. "The vote today, I think, is an indication that a majority of senators believe, as I believe, that enough is enough."
The president said Republicans have harmed the economy and democracy itself by routinely leaning on the filibuster to prevent his nominees from getting votes. As of Thursday, 21 of his nominees are either currently being filibustered or were filibustered and withdrew. He conceded that both parties have used the filibuster to prevent a president's nominees from advancing, but said the current level of obstruction "just isn't normal."
"A deliberate and determined effort to obstruct everything, no matter what the merits, just to refight the result of an election, is not normal," Obama said. "For the sake of future generations, we can't let it become normal."
Earlier Thursday, Democrats voted 52 to 48 to fundamentally change Senate filibuster rules regarding a president's executive and judicial nominees, with an exception for Supreme Court nominees. From now on, the majority only needs 51 votes, instead of 60, to clear a procedural hurdle on a nominee before casting a final vote. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) pulled the trigger on the change after Republicans filibustered all three of Obama's nominees to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit over the past few weeks, along with his nominee for the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Mel Watt.
Obama emphasized that both he and Vice President Joe Biden are former senators, and they value the Senate's role in deciding which nominees advance. But he said some Senate Republicans are abusing the filibuster rule to the point where business has ground to a halt.
"What's at stake here isn't my ability to fulfill my constitutional duty. What's at stake is the ability of any president to fulfill his or her constitutional duty," Obama said. "Public service is not a game. It is a privilege."
Right after passing the Senate rules change, Democrats immediately put it into effect. They voted 55 to 43 to advance D.C. Circuit Court nominee Patricia Millett, who Republicans filibustered late last month. Since they only needed 51 votes this time, versus 60, she cleared the hurdle and now awaits her final confirmation vote.