Some Democrats in Congress are ready to blow over the way that Republicans have been blocking President Barack Obama‘s judicial nominations. They are ready to invoke the “nuclear option” — using the power of majority vote to make a unilateral change in Senate rules — in order to break the logjam.
Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) is one of them. On NewsOne Now with Roland Martin, he voiced his thoughts on how many votes it should take to end a filibuster. “Remember, during the sixties when it was so difficult to get certain civil rights [and] voting rights legislations passed,” he stated. “The cut off, at that time, was 67. In 1975, that was dropped to 60. I think the time has come for us to drop it down to 51.” Hear more of what he had to say in the clip below, and then scroll down to read Associated Press’ account.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday that he’s considering changing his chamber’s rules to make it harder for minority Republicans to block President Barack Obama’s nominations, a warning shot that suggested Democrats might soon use their power in the chamber to end a long-simmering partisan dispute.
“I’m at the point where we need to do something to allow government to function,” Reid, D-Nev., told reporters.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., became the latest senior senator to change her mind and announced she would support a rules change. Her remarks added momentum to the Democratic drive, which could climax in a showdown vote as soon as this week.
Reid’s and Feinstein’s remarks reflect growing Democratic frustration with GOP delaying tactics, and edged Democrats closer to using their 55-45 Senate advantage to muscle through parliamentary changes making it harder for minority parties to use filibusters to block presidential appointments.
They spoke a day after Republicans used a filibuster – which take 60 votes to end – to block the third Obama nominee since Oct. 31 to one of the nation’s top courts.
Democrats are considering requiring just 51 votes to end filibusters against nominees for Cabinet secretaries and other top agency jobs, and for judgeships below the level of Supreme Court justices. That would include nominees to the D.C. Circuit.
A vote on the rule change could occur as soon as this week, said a Senate Democratic aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to be identified as the source of the information.
On Monday, the Senate voted 53-38 to allow a final confirmation vote on Robert L. Wilkins, a district court judge in Washington, to U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. That fell seven short of the 60 votes needed to end GOP delays, with only two Republicans voting to let Wilkins’ nomination proceed.
Also blocked have been Obama’s selections of attorney Patricia Millett and Cornelia Pillard, a Georgetown University law professor, to the D.C. circuit. That court has three vacancies, and its eight judges are divided evenly between those appointed by Democratic and GOP presidents.
The D.C. circuit court is considered the country’s second most powerful court because it rules on White House and federal agency actions, giving it clout that can help or hinder a president’s agenda.
Republicans have said Obama is trying to push the D.C. circuit’s balance toward Democrats, and argued that its workload is too light to merit additional judges. They have not challenged the three nominees’ qualifications.
“If `advise and consent’ means anything at all, then occasionally there’s going to be a situation where consent is not given,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. He said the Senate has approved an overwhelming number of Obama’s judgeship nominations.
Democrats say the circuit’s workload has changed little in recent years, and say Republicans favored filling its vacancies when Republican President George W. Bush was in the White House.
It has been unclear whether Reid has the 51 votes he would need to revamp the Senate’s rules. Some senior Democratic lawmakers have been wary of a change, arguing that their party would regret it whenever the GOP regains control of the Senate and White House.