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 »
Two weeks after a massive stroke, Nobel Peace Prize winner and former president and prime minister of Israel Shimon Peres passed away late Tuesday night. In a political, military, and diplomatic career that lasted nearly 70 years, Peres was influential both in building up the formidable strength of the Israeli military and in seeking to negotiate lasting peace with Israel's many neighboring Arab countries. Within hours of the announcement of his death, both condolences and tributes began pouring in, including from former President Bill Clinton, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, and former United Kingdom Prime Minister Tony Blair.
"Democrats panicked by third-party candidates drawing support away from Hillary Clinton are ramping up their attacks against Gary Johnson and warning that a vote for a third party is a vote for Donald Trump. Liberal groups are passing around embarrassing videos of Johnson and running ads against him warning about his positions on issues like climate change that are important to young voters and independents."
Russo-Western relations are getting thornier all the time. "Dutch-led criminal investigators said Wednesday they have solid evidence that a Malaysian jet was shot down by a Buk missile moved into eastern Ukraine from Russia. Wilbert Paulissen, head of the Central Crime Investigation department of the Dutch National Police, said communications intercepts showed that pro-Moscow rebels had called for deployment of the mobile surface-to-air weapon, and reported its arrival in rebel-controlled areas of eastern Ukraine." Russia, of course, is denying culpability.
In its roughly 125-year history, the Arizona Republic has never endorsed a Democratic candidate for president. Until now. "The 2016 Republican candidate is not conservative and he is not qualified," the editors write, as they throw their support to Hillary Clinton.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi have reached a deal which is likely to avert a government shutdown. The biggest impediment had been the GOP's refusal to include funding for Flint water system reconstruction in the continuing resolution, and this solution provides an alternative measure likely to appease both sides. The funding for Flint will be included in the Water Resources and Development Act as an amendment to the version passed by the House of Representatives, one which will be passed in the senate. It now appears likely that Congress will in fact be able to keep the government open.