Senate Democrats voted along party lines to end filibusters, which have been used to block a final vote on presidential appointees.
The move undermines Republican ability to block appointees from being voted on.
Lawmakers voted mostly along party lines to change the rules. Presidential appointees must now be approved by a simple majority vote, rather than a two-thirds majority.
Senate leaders went head-to-head before the 52-48 vote.
Will the Senate regret this historical vote in the future? David French, senior counsel with the American Center for Law and Justice, answers this and more on CBN Newswatch, Nov. 21.
"For the first time in history, Republicans have routinely used the filibuster to prevent President Obama from appointing his executive team or confirming judges," Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said.
"This rules change charade has gone from being a biannual threat to an annual threat now to a quarterly threat," Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, said.
"How many times have we be threatened, my colleagues? Do what I say or we'll break the rules to change the rules. Confirm everybody 100 percent," he added.
Right after the vote, Democrats used the new rules to begin to push through one of three D.C. Appeals Court nominees that Republicans had blocked.
President Obama spoke shortly after the vote, saying he supported the move by his own party.
"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.
"All too often we've seen a single senator or a handful of senators choose to abuse archaic procedural tactics to unilaterally block bipartisan compromises," he added.