Senate Democrats Leaning Toward Nuclear Option

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) (C) talks with Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman Gary Gensler after a hearing of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill July 30, 2013 in Washington, DC. Gensler and SEC Chairman Mary Jo White testified and took questions from Senators during the hearing titled, 'Mitigating Systemic Risk in Financial Markets through Wall Street Reforms.'
National Journal
Elahe Izadi Michael Catalini
Nov. 20, 2013, 5:15 p.m.

Sen­ate Demo­crats have markedly shif­ted their stance on the “nuc­le­ar op­tion” is­sue, with lead­ers say­ing more em­phat­ic­ally that they’re fed up with Re­pub­lic­an fili­busters and ready to make a change.

Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id said earli­er this week that he’s ex­amin­ing a change in the cham­ber’s rules to con­firm pres­id­en­tial nom­in­a­tions via a simply ma­jor­ity vote, in or­der to clear three nom­in­ees to the U.S. Court of Ap­peals for the Dis­trict of Columbia Cir­cuit. Now lead­er­ship is act­ively count­ing votes and is “very close” to the 51 needed to change the rules, a Sen­ate Demo­crat­ic lead­er­ship aide said.

“I be­lieve when the lead­er­ship de­cides to act, there will be 51 votes,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., a lead­ing pro­ponent of chan­ging the rules. “I do think that we’re in a com­pletely dif­fer­ent uni­verse now, where the prin­ciple of vot­ing to block a fi­nal vote or not al­low­ing an up-or-down vote simply be­cause you want to deny a pres­id­ent to fill ju­di­cial va­can­cies, as op­posed to any con­cerns over the qual­i­fic­a­tions of a nom­in­ee, has pushed us to the brink.”

In­deed, the fight is dif­fer­ent this time, as op­posed to this sum­mer, when sen­at­ors cut a deal to avoid go­ing nuc­le­ar. That fight was over ex­ec­ut­ive ap­point­ments, in­clud­ing re­cess ap­point­ments that faced ju­di­cial chal­lenges, which Re­pub­lic­ans ob­jec­ted to. This time around, Re­pub­lic­ans ob­ject to Pres­id­ent Obama filling the D.C. Cir­cuit Court with his ap­point­ments, ar­guing that the court’s work­load is light and it doesn’t need more judges.

Sen. Lamar Al­ex­an­der, R-Tenn., one of his party’s lead­ing op­pon­ents of the nuc­le­ar op­tion, said there’s a polit­ic­al com­pon­ent for Demo­crats to con­sider as well. Vul­ner­able Demo­crats fa­cing reelec­tion in 2014 could have to “an­swer for” the rules change if their votes res­ult in con­tro­ver­sial judges join­ing the court.

“I, for one, am tired of it,” said Al­ex­an­der, who sug­ges­ted on the floor that go­ing nuc­le­ar would be “Obama­care II,” be­cause the health law was passed without GOP votes. “I think it’s a fake crisis.”

Not all Demo­crats are on board with the move. Sen. Carl Lev­in, D-Mich., has been a vo­cal crit­ic against chan­ging the rules.

“I love Carl Lev­in, OK? He’s one of my friends. We’re go­ing to miss him so very, very much,” Re­id said Tues­day. “But the world’s not like it was 30 years ago. Dif­fer­ent world here.”

Sup­port for re­form­ing the rules grew this week with the ad­di­tion of Demo­crat­ic Sens. Di­anne Fein­stein and Bar­bara Box­er, both of Cali­for­nia. Box­er told Na­tion­al Journ­al Daily that Re­pub­lic­ans “don’t want to give the pres­id­ent his team.”

“What changed my mind is the ob­struc­tion­ism that I’ve seen, day after day, week after week, hour after hour, month after month, year after year from my Re­pub­lic­an friends,” Box­er said.

Asked wheth­er she feared that the GOP could turn the tables on Demo­crats if it re­takes the ma­jor­ity, Box­er sug­ges­ted that the big­ger con­cern is not con­firm­ing the side­lined ju­di­cial nom­in­ees now.

“I have to just say that I’m sit­ting here now — this is my time here — and I’m very will­ing to give a lot of rights and a lot of lee­way to the minor­ity,” Box­er said. “I’ve been in the minor­ity, but it’s be­ing ab­used, and it just can’t go on.”

What We're Following See More »
WILL ANNOUNCE PICK BEFORE CONVENTION
Trump to Name VP Search Committee
32 minutes ago
THE LATEST

"Donald J. Trump said on Wednesday that he expected to reveal his vice presidential pick sometime in July—before the Republican National Convention in Cleveland—but added that he would soon announce a committee to handle the selection process, which would include Dr. Ben Carson." He said he's inclined to name a traditional political figure, unlike himself.

Source:
AFFECTS WORKERS EARNING MORE THAN $50K
Business, Nonprofits Panicking Over Labor’s New Overtime Rules
35 minutes ago
THE LATEST

"Groups have flocked to the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs to ask for last-minute changes" to the Department of Labor's new overtime rules, which would require that businesses pay overtime to any salaried employee making more than $50,440 per year, up from the current $23,660. Business interests, as well as some nonprofits, say the move could lead to mass change in workers' statuses, from salaried to hourly. "The White House office held 22 meetings on the proposal in April, according to its calendar, and groups say more meetings are planned this week." Last month, National Journal's Alex Brown reported on how the change might affect Washington.

Source:
KAUFMAN, HUNTSMAN ALSO MAY JUMP ON BOARD
Ed Rollins Joins Pro-Trump Super PAC
40 minutes ago
THE LATEST

Republican gun-for-hire Ed Rollins is hopping on the bandwagon, er, the Great America PAC, "an outside group that’s supporting Trump. ... Rollins isn’t the only GOP mainstay coming around to Trump. In recent days, Republican veterans including Republican National Committeeman Ron Kaufman and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman have expressed an openness to him."

Source:
PRESSER IN OHIO THIS AFTERNOON
Report: Kasich Is Bowing Out
1 hours ago
THE LATEST

John Kasich is apparently the last domino to fall on the GOP side. NBC is reporting he's suspending his presidential campaign. His path to the Republican nomination seemed all but impossible—even at a contested convention—but he may have finally given up. The Washington Examiner reports Kasich has canceled a press conference at Dulles Airport, "and will instead hold one in Columbus, Ohio, at 5 p.m."

Source:
CNN/ORC
Clinton Ahead by 13 in Early Going
1 hours ago
THE LATEST

"As Donald Trump captures the mantle of presumptive Republican nominee, a new poll finds he begins his general election campaign well behind Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton. The new CNN/ORC Poll, completed ahead of Trump's victory last night, found Clinton leads 54% to 41%, a 13-point edge over the New York businessman, her largest lead since last July. Clinton is also more trusted than Trump on many issues voters rank as critically important, with one big exception. By a 50% to 45% margin, voters say Trump would do a better job handling the economy than Clinton would."

Source:
×