It's no secret that Senate Republicans have proven remarkably adept at keeping President Obama's agenda, and his nominees, bottled up, and that they managed to do so even when Democrats had a theoretically filibuster-proof majority. But the war over Senate obstruction is really starting to heat up now, and Obama just won a big battle in it.
Thursday, the Senate confirmed 27 of the president's nominees in one batch. The White House quickly put out a triumphant statement from Obama, who attributed them to his having told Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell "that if Republican senators did not release [their] holds, I would exercise my authority to fill critically-needed positions in the federal government temporarily through the use of recess appointments."
The statement concluded with more fighting words: "While this is a good first step, there are still dozens of nominees on hold who deserve a similar vote, and I will be looking for action from the Senate when it returns from recess. If they do not act, I reserve the right to use my recess appointment authority in the future."
Politico's Mike Allen has a little more detail on what exactly went on between Obama and McConnell during a meeting on Tuesday; he reports, "'Mitch, this is unprecedented,' the president said, gesturing forcefully on the Cabinet Room table, according to aides. 'If you don’t move any, I’m going to do some [recess] appointments.'"
The thing to watch now is how Senate Republicans react to the way the White House is playing this. They're already pushing back on the idea that they blinked; fear of looking weak again could certainly re-stiffen their resolve to hold every inch of ground.