The Senate appears headed for another showdown on the so-called “nuclear option” for changing the rules of the confirmation process to make it harder for the minority party to block presidential appointments.
With Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., about to call for a procedural vote on two nominees to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit who are opposed by Republicans, some Democrats are calling for the rules change.
Last week, Republicans blocked both a nominee to the D.C. Circuit, Patricia Millett, and President Obama’s choice to lead the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C. This week they are promising to block two more appeals court nominees, Cornelia Pillard and Robert Wilkins, when Reid brings them up for a vote.
“I’m confident we will have the same outcome as the first one,” said Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas. Asked whether the judicial nominees could get the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster, Cornyn answered simply, “I don’t believe so.”
The Senate skirted the issue of how confirmation votes are conducted as recently as July, when Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., hammered out an agreement that forestalled a change in the rules to allow executive nominees to proceed on a simple-majority vote.
But now, the Democrats who led the charge to change the rules then are again saying enough is enough.
“It’s probably a couple of weeks away here,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore. “I think we will come back and revisit this issue, consistent with our conversation in July about the need for the Senate to be able to hold up-or-down votes.”
Reid, according to a Senate Democratic leadership aide, has not taken the nuclear option off the table and reserves the right to change the rules.
For Republicans, though, the threats seem to have grown wearisome.
“Not only have the Democrats gotten nearly everything they want, but at the same time they have preserved the option to dangle the threat of the nuclear option again,” said Beth Levine, a spokeswoman for Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee. “By allowing the threat to continue, they have in effect already changed the rules in many instances.”
The disadvantage for Democrats in changing the rules is that they could someday find themselves in the minority and be unable to block nominees they oppose. Republicans eagerly point this out when rebutting their colleagues across the aisle.
But some Democrats call for the change nonetheless.
“I have said for a long time: The Senate is broken,” Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said recently in a statement. “I called for changes in the Senate rules at the beginning of this Congress, but we didn’t do enough. And now we’re right back in the same dysfunctional situation.”
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The national polls, once again, tell very different stories: Clinton leads by just one point in the IBD, Rasmussen, and LA Times tracking polls, while she shows a commanding 12 point lead in the ABC news poll and a smaller but sizable five point lead in the CNN poll. The Republican Remington Research Group released a slew of polls showing Trump up in Ohio, Nevada, and North Carolina, a tie in Florida, and Clinton leads in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Virginia. However, an independent Siena poll shows Clinton up 7 in North Carolina, while a Monmouth poll shows Trump up one in Arizona
Since the release of the Access Hollywood tape, on which Donald Trump boasted of sexually assaulting women, "Senate Republicans have seen their fortunes dip, particularly in states like Florida, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada and Pennsylvania," where Hillary Clinton now leads. Jennifer Duffy writes that she now expects Democrats to gain five to seven seats—enough to regain control of the chamber.
"Of the Senate seats in the Toss Up column, Trump only leads in Indiana and Missouri where both Republicans are running a few points behind him. ... History shows that races in the Toss Up column never split down the middle; one party tends to win the lion’s share of them."
"Some Republicans are running so far away from their party’s nominee that they are threatening to sue TV stations for running ads that suggest they support Donald Trump. Just two weeks before Election Day, five Republicans―Reps. Bob Dold (R-Ill.), Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), David Jolly (R-Fla.), John Katko (R-N.Y.) and Brian Fitzpatrick, a Pennsylvania Republican running for an open seat that’s currently occupied by his brother―contend that certain commercials paid for by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee provide false or misleading information by connecting them to the GOP nominee. Trump is so terrible, these Republicans are essentially arguing, that tying them to him amounts to defamation."
Former Illinois GOP Congressman Aaron Schock "recently agreed to pay a $10,000 fine for making an excessive solicitation for a super PAC that was active in his home state of Illinois four years ago." Schock resigned from Congress after a story about his Downton Abbey-themed congressional office raised questions about how he was using taxpayer dollars.