Reid Blocks First G.O.P. Offer on Filibuster Reform, Leaves Nuclear Option on Table

Sen. John McCain's proposal doesn't go far enough for Majority Leader Harry Reid

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Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid

For at least the third time this year, Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid is threatening the “nuclear option” to filibuster reform after he extracted minor victories in January and July employing the same tactic.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told TIME that he has been in discussions with the Democratic leadership, a role revisited multiple times from at least 2005 through this year. Reid rejected an offer by McCain Wednesday, according to an aide familiar with the discussions, since the proposal did not allow the Senate to move forward to allow a vote on all three of President Obama’s nominees to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Over the past three weeks, Republicans have filibustered the nominations.

“Stay tuned over the next 24 hours,” McCain said, who noted that he takes the new rhetoric “seriously, but I’ve heard it a couple of times before.”

The “nuclear option,” which the Senate has never used, forbids the minority from using its only real power to extract concessions: stalling. Reid’s plan, according to Senate Democratic leadership aides, is to use the “nuclear option” to eliminate the filibuster on confirming non-Supreme Court judicial and executive branch nominees. Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) support the proposal despite their prior opposition to the tactic, increasing the likelihood that Reid can get the 51 votes he needs. There are 55 Senators who caucus with the Democrats.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has outsize influence reviewing many of the cases involving federal administrative agencies, and four of the nine Supreme Court Justices have served on the court. The eight active judges on the court are split evenly by party ideology, although Republicans appointed five of six senior status judges, who sometimes hear cases.

The Republicans, taking a page from the Democrats’ playbook during the Bush Administration, say the filibusters aren’t due to the candidates’ qualifications, but because they believe the court is underworked. “That was exactly the position of the Democratic Senators in 2006 and 2007,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) on the chamber floor Wednesday. Indeed, a 2006 letter signed by Democratic Senators on the Judiciary Committee—including Vice President Biden and current Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.)—argued that they should debate the necessity of filling an 11th seat before turning to President George W. Bush‘s nominee Peter Keisler.

In their letter, the Democrats quoted Republican Senators who had previously supported the position that the court did not need 11 judges—including Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)—in 1997.

But the Democrats and Republicans believe this time is different. Democrats have grown exasperated by the slow nomination process, which is in part due to Obama’s slower than usual submissions. Democrats ire, however is naturally on Republicans: besides the three court nominations, Republicans earlier this month blocked the nomination of Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.) to the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

For the congressional black caucus, the partisan dismay has turned to claims of racism. Rep. Charles B. Randel (D-NY) told Roll Call this week that if Republicans “were ever able to track down their ancestors, there’s a Confederate general in every damn living room.” Robert L. Wilkins, a court nominee, and Watt are both African Americans. Republicans have denied the claim.

Senate Minority Whip Jon Cornyn (R-Texas) believes that Reid has ulterior motives for threatening the nuclear option during this particular media cycle. “They’re desperate to change the subject,” says Cornyn. “I think they’re panicked by what’s happening over Obamacare.”

A Senate Democratic leadership aide tells TIME that the move is preemptive; when the Republicans eventually take over the Senate, the aide asserts that the Republicans will push the button.

“That’s just pure fantasy,” says Cornyn.” But, he adds, “Once you decide that a simple majority of the Senate can change the Senate rules, then that’s a two-way street.”

It certainly is. As Reid declared in 2005 when he was Minority Leader, “We will not negotiate under a nuclear cloud.”

25 comments
ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

Nobody is even mentioning this. They think it is just a political victory. But as surely as night follows day the Republicans will return to power as Democrats will also return. Just like a cycle. With the constant change of personnel in the judiciary and the administrative positions, these constant changes will take its toll on the confidence of the American people on the electoral process that their aspirations will be fulfilled. So far this country political process is just held by civility and a piece of paper called the Constitution. The constant pulling and tearing will bear no good on this country where guns abound. So the scary thought would be the civil war if people gets fed up. Just a food for thought for those who think this is an end all.


daveeboch
daveeboch

I am actually more concerned what is going to happen to America after Obama is out of office. I am certain AIPAC is trying to find a presidential candidate to but that is Pro Israel and will put the USA military in a war with Iran to meet the needs of their precious Israel. Disgusting and despicable AIPAC is. As far as I am concerned Obama is the only president to take a stand and anyone bashing him has no clue as to the dangers that lurk ahead. Don't you tools all know Israel runs your country and dictates your foreign policy?

FrankieAddiego
FrankieAddiego

Now, back in 2005, when the Democrats were trying to make filibustering out to be one of the great traditions of our nation's history, airing advertisements with Jimmy Stewart from "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," because--well--the shoe was on the other foot; I even wrote an opinion piece for the campus paper about how filibustering is an obstructionist tactic meant to harm the democratic process.

I still feel that way, so if Reid wants to put a time-limit on how long a given Senator can talk, more power to him, depending on the specifics.  But the hypocrisy is clear.  Harry Reid is drunk on power, and when he talks about the "nuclear option," I'm honestly afraid he's going to go a lot further than what I mentioned.

Remembering
Remembering

My previous post never appeared, but let me summarize for all those pretentious pseudo-intellectuals who want to try and define (re-define) democracy. It is government by the people and for the people. Despite the belief that a 'majority' currently rules, there is no real representation in our government. I believe our society is moving in the direction of a huge social experiment: liberalism (socialism?). I can argue facts and statistics all day, but the views of most of the FOLLOWERS of our current political/social trend are shaped by pop culture, media influence and peer pressure. Besides facts and statistics, there is also a necessary wisdom needed to interpret them. That wisdom is all but lost in our modern culture. What I have to say is not 'trendy', so I'll get the same rhetoric in response. Ultimately, and very sadly, we will see how this 'experiment' plays out........

Remembering
Remembering

So much for democracy. So Republicans should simply sit down and shut up, and let the all-knowing Dems do their business without question? Unbelievable. And why is it the black caucus can make any racist comment they want and no one even flinches? More double-standards for our diminishing nation to consider as it slides inexorably toward third world status........

jwarrencollins
jwarrencollins

HooooooRAAAAAAEEEEEE....now all the voters of Kentucky have to do is rid us of McConnell. And Virginia can rid us of Cantor. And Ohio can throw bawl-baby Boehner off the bus...and at that point sanity can be reestablished in the hollowed halls of our government. Yipppppeeeeeee!!  It's way past time that a single person, such as an Ayatollah, can make so many people completely miserable. 

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

Long past due.  A better media would report on the historic nature of the Senate's minority's obstruction.

It's not just judges.

RobertNguyen
RobertNguyen

Change the rule. Isn't the Democrat party the ruling party or they are all just stooges for the Republican party?

The will of the People must be implemented or else this Democracy is just a farce...

jason024
jason024

About damn time. Trying to tie things like BENGHAZI!!!! and other unrelated nonsense like "they don't need more judges"  to the consent process should never happen.

I say do away with the filibuster for everything but I will assume they will keep it intact for SCOTUS nominees and regular legislation.

m.p.williams
m.p.williams

The procedural, or 'virtual', filibuster has become an obstructionist perversion -- end it, Sen. Reid.

lk714
lk714

Launch the nukes, Harry!

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

@daveeboch War with Iran should be the least of your worries. War with a nuclear armed Iran should be. And another thing which should keep awake at night is when Obama leaves office. The mess he will leave behind will resonate throughout. It is the racial division, the distrust of Americans in the political and governmental process and most of all the racial as well as social envy between the haves and have nots that he will leave behind. Just like when your dog leaves his wet poo on the carpet. The difficulty of cleaning, you know what I mean ? Now think of it.


DominickJ.DiNoto
DominickJ.DiNoto

@FrankieAddiego  Jimmy Stewart in "Smith goes to Washington" is the REAL thing and the Right way to do a filibuster NOT the way McConnell has been doing by JUST 'phoning it in and SAYING "Filibuster".  WHEN the shoe changed feet it also changed procedure and that IS JUST ASININE!  Especially to the amount of Filibusters McConnell  has manged to put under his belt and didn't have to lift ONE DAM FINGER Just the 'phone and make a call.  WELL THAT day has come to and end and is gone THANK Goodness..  SO Frankie---The Republicans with the aid of McConnell has destroyed a great American Tradition all on their own!!!  There's no Hypocrisy here and if anyone is DRUNK with power it's been the Republicans and McConnell..  Check on the amount of Filibusterers McConnell has done.

jason024
jason024

@Remembering The problem is YOU are unable to connect with the majority of people. You can blame the media, society etc, but unless you have a workable message,  candidates, AND ideas to attract voters the fault is nobody but your own. Don't tell me  what the mainstream conservatives thus far put out there is a viable alternative.

The government may not ultimately represent all of the people due to things like special interest groups, unions, super pacs, and corporations but the fact remains this is what people are wiling to put up with.


jwarrencollins
jwarrencollins

@Remembering And while we all revere your right to Pluribus your particular Unum, like so many of the right wing, just because it is YOUR position does not make it the position of the MAJORITY. And while all the rest of us "pretentious pseudo-intellectuals" make our counter argument, realizing how sensitive the right is to any counter position even to the point of a lately and dramatically demonstrated willingness to obstruct to the damage of the nation, it is long past time for you to realize that perhaps your positions, while no doubt good for you, may not be good for the majority. Therefore your particular "definition" does not carry any more weight than, say, that of a pretentious pseudo-intellectual you deem below your station. And by the way, the name-calling device so often deployed by the crazed right these last few years is growing far beyond tiresomely troll-like. It might be a personal comfort for many of the soon defunct far right to adjust attitude.

jwarrencollins
jwarrencollins

@Remembering Yes.... it's so anti-democracy for a simple majority to carry...much better to impose a super majority on every single issue, and then only after a single obstructionist makes his demands. (Do you recognize sarcasm any better than you understand the democratic concept?)

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@RememberingYeah about that democracy.


After waging an unprecedented campaign of obstructionism against President Obama’s nominees, Republicans are now crying crocodile tears over a rules change that would end the filibuster on certain judicial nominees.

NBC News points out that Republicans are not blocking judicial nominees over “concerns about ideology or qualifications, but over the president’s ability to appoint ANYONE to these vacancies.” This unprecedented blockade leaves Democrats with few options, as dozens of nominees are left unable to receive a simple confirmation vote.

It’s even harder to be sympathetic to Senate Republicans when you remember that just a few years ago, many of the very same Republicans who are today filibustering President Obama’s nominees willy-nilly were vowing that they would never, ever filibuster judicial nominees. Some even declared that judicial filibusters were unconstitutional and un-American.

But that was before there was a Democrat in the White House.

We take a look back at some of the Senate’s most strident opponents of filibustering judicial nominees, turned master obstructers.

1. Mitch McConnell (KY)

“Any President’s judicial nominees should receive careful consideration. But after that debate, they deserve a simple up-or-down vote” (5/19/05).

“Let's get back to the way the Senate operated for over 200 years, up or down votes on the president's nominee, no matter who the president is, no matter who's in control of the Senate” (5/22/05).

2. John Cornyn (TX)

“[F]ilibusters of judicial nominations are uniquely offensive to our nation’s constitutional design” (6/4/03).

“[M]embers of this distinguished body have long and consistently obeyed an unwritten rule not to block the confirmation of judicial nominees by filibuster. But, this Senate tradition, this unwritten rule has now been broken and it is crucial that we find a way to ensure the rule won’t be broken in the future” (6/5/03).

3. Lamar Alexander (TN)

“If there is a Democratic President and I am in this body, and if he nominates a judge, I will never vote to deny a vote on that judge” (3/11/03).

“I would never filibuster any President's judicial nominee. Period” (6/9/05).

4. John McCain (AZ)

“I’ve always believed that [judicial nominees deserve yes-or-no votes]. There has to be extraordinary circumstances to vote against them. Elections have consequences” (6/18/13).

5. Chuck Grassley (IA)

It would be a real constitutional crisis if we up the confirmation of judges from 51 to 60” (2/11/03).

“[W]e can’t find anywhere in the Constitution that says a supermajority is needed for confirmation” (5/8/05).

6. Saxby Chambliss (GA)

“I believe [filibustering judicial nominees] is in violation of the Constitution” (4/13/05).

7. Lindsey Graham (SC)

“I think filibustering judges will destroy the judiciary over time. I think it’s unconstitutional” (5/23/05).

8. Johnny Isakson (GA)

I will vote to support a vote, up or down, on every nominee. Understanding that, were I in the minority party and the issues reversed, I would take exactly the same position because this document, our Constitution, does not equivocate” (5/19/05).

9. James Inhofe (OK)

“This outrageous grab for power by the Senate minority is wrong and contrary to our oath to support and defend the Constitution” (3/11/03).

10. Mike Crapo (ID)

“[T]he Constitution requires the Senate to hold up-or-down votes on all nominees” (5/25/05).

11 . Richard Shelby (AL)

“Why not allow the President to do his job of selecting judicial nominees and let us do our job in confirming or denying them? Principles of fairness call for it and the Constitution requires it” (11/12/03).

12. Orrin Hatch (UT)*

Filibustering judicial nominees is “unfair, dangerous, partisan, and unconstitutional” (1/12/05).

*Hatch claims he still opposes filibusters of judicial nominees and often votes “present” instead of “no” on cloture votes. But as Drew noted: “Because ending a filibuster requires 60 ‘yes’ votes, voting ‘present’ is identical to voting ‘no.’ Hatch’s decision to vote ‘present’ is an affirmative decision to continue the filibuster.”

- See more at: http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/twelve-republicans-who-broke-their-pledge-oppose-judicial-filibusters#sthash.GhHpmyEH.dpuf

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

@DominickJ.DiNoto @FrankieAddiego Right Destroye a great tradition. It is a great tradition if you are filibustering against a Republican nominee. But not against a Democratic nominee. Then it is abuse. Think Miguel Estrada, Robert Bork among others. Think the humiliation on Clarence Thomas. How does that look to you ? I know a Great American Tradition



FrankieAddiego
FrankieAddiego

@DominickJ.DiNoto Give me a break!  No matter who's filibustering or how noble the cause is, the whole point of filibustering is to make other Senators who disagree with you "lose their resolve," and cause them to leave.  There's nothing American about it.

There should be a specific time limit to how long a senator can speak.  I'm not saying it should be five minutes like at a city council meeting, but I think if they can't sum it all up in, like, an hour, then they might have some problems.  That said, okay, making them stop with a majority rather than 2/3, yeah, sure whatever.

But don't B.S. me with calling filibustering a "great American tradition."  That's a JOKE!!!  And yes, Harry Reid is only doing it so he can get his own way.  I mean, the guy was unwilling to negotiate with Republicans to end the "shutdown" even going so far as to admit that he wouldn't make an exception for kids with cancer!

What the Democrats have become--and the fact that people can't see it because of the leftist narrative--is just sad.

daveeboch
daveeboch

The biggest problem we are facing is special interest groups such as AIPAC as they have literally destroyed the United States of America and they have wreaked unnecessary havoc on president Obama's presidency. Here is a news flash for the uninformed tools, Obamacare is the same plan the ovemitt Romney had. Only Romney would have the country in Iran right now as Romney owed his butt cheeks to gangster Neocon Sheldon Adelson. Everything being slandered against Obama is because of his tough stand with Israel and refusing to declare war on Iran. I applaud you for that President Obama!

daveeboch
daveeboch

Lindsey Graham is that dude who wanted to send the USA back to war for his true love Israel. Graham committed treason and so did McCain. I say give the black men a chance as at least they are not butt kissing up to Israel!