Don’t expect another summit in the Old Senate Chamber to defuse another nuclear standoff in the Senate this fall.
At least, that’s the message from a number of Republican senators as the debate heats up again over changing the Senate’s rules to weaken the minority’s ability to block nominations — the so-called nuclear option.
“This is what I’ve told my Democrat friends,” said Sen. James Risch, R-Idaho. “Do it. Because when we have a Republican president and we’ve got 55 members of the U.S. Senate or 51, we’re gonna be able to repeal Obamacare with a simple majority.
Senators are engaging in the nuclear-option fight again since Republicans blocked two nominees last week. The GOP is poised to prevent another judicial nominee when the Senate returns next week and considers Cornelia Pillard to be a judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
Republicans expect Pillard will not get the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster.
Democratic leadership will not commit to going nuclear.
“I don’t think any final decision has been made,” said Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat. But, he added: “There comes a tipping point.” Durbin did not elaborate on what the point would be.
A Senate Democratic leadership aide said that while Democrats had 51 votes to change the rules on executive nominees in July, it’s not clear there are 51 votes to change the rules on judicial nominees. The difference, the aide said, is that some groups advocating for abortion rights worry about the implications for a rules change should there be a Republican president and a Republican-controlled Senate.
Still, a familiar group of Democrats, including Sens. Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Tom Udall of New Mexico, are calling for a change in the rules.
So far, the issue does not seem to have reached the fevered pitch it did over the summer, with Republican leaders keeping their distance from the discussion.
But rank-and-file GOP senators are issuing a double-dog dare to Democrats.
“At some point you say, ‘Just bring it on,’ ” said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn. “I don’t think Democrats would want a Republican president putting people on the Supreme Court with 51 votes.”
While Democrats suggest changing the rules to affect only executive or perhaps even judicial nominations, Republicans argue that such a change would open the floodgates and pave the way for them to change the rules on legislation as well, if they take back the chamber.
“That kind of breaks the mold, doesn’t it?” Risch said. “If you do it on executive nominations — what difference does it make [for legislation]? If you feel so strongly about it that you’re willing to break the rules to change the rules, what difference does it make?”
While it was a closed-door meeting in the Old Senate Chamber that seemed to break the logjam in July, Senate Republicans said they knew of no bipartisan behind-the-scenes meetings on avoiding the issue this time.
Asked whether Republicans are actually daring Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to try to change the rules, Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., who oversees the National Republican Senatorial Committee, thought for a moment.
“Senator Reid and his colleagues just need to decide if they’re gonna change the rules or not,” Moran responded. “If this is what they’re gonna do every time, I don’t think we’re interested in being intimidated by that.”
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Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.
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Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."
In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-expected primary battle behind her, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) is no longer going on the air in upcoming primary states. “Team Clinton hasn’t spent a single cent in … California, Indiana, Kentucky, Oregon and West Virginia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “campaign has spent a little more than $1 million in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone backer in the Senate, said the candidate should end his presidential campaign if he’s losing to Hillary Clinton after the primary season concludes in June, breaking sharply with the candidate who is vowing to take his insurgent bid to the party convention in Philadelphia.”
The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."