“He hasn’t liked the language we’ve worked out regarding future Republican decisions to use the nuclear option,” says a Democratic staffer with knowledge of the conversations. “Leader Reid has been tracking the negotiations, and he’s not satisfied that we’re getting anything close to a fair deal.”
The deal’s parameters involve the loss by Republicans of at least two nominees, whether through a vote by the full Senate or by never reaching the floor. At least three of President Bush’s nominees would get their votes and likely confirmations over the next two weeks, while Democrats would promise not to use the filibuster on a Supreme Court nominee. That point has been a sticky one for Republicans, but it is believed that in the discussions Democrats have indicated that no name mentioned publicly thus far as a potential Bush nominee was viewed as filibustable in the context of the agreement.
Reid, though, seems to have reached a point where he feels he must stand firm. He is facing increasing pressure from inside his caucus to appear tough with the Republicans. While Democrats have been claiming that the judicial obstruction debate is not about ideology, and all about a desire to play a role in governing, Reid’s Senate Whip, Dick Durbin, last week went to Reid’s leading home state newspaper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, claiming that Reid’s — and by extension Democrats’ — allowing bankruptcy reform and class-action lawsuit reform legislation to move through the Senate had weakened the caucus.
“You have Durbin stabbing his boss in the back in his own backyard, claiming that because the Democrats worked on legislation, opposed the legislation on the floor, and allowed a vote on the legislation, somehow that has made them weaker for the filibuster debate,” says a Republican Senate staffer. “So if Durbin had his way, they would have just obstructed everything, and held all legislation hostage for leverage in filibusters. He can’t have it every way he wants.”
Reid, according to aides, was stunned by Durbin’s betrayal, and while the two men have spoken since, Reid has not put the incident behind him.
“You always make calculations and game plan the best you can,” says a Senate leadership aide loyal to Reid. “We made a calculation to fight for Democratic values in those pieces of legislation, but Republicans voted the bills through. We could have tried to oppose them on the floor, but we negotiated. The public wanted to see movement and action from both sides.”
Reid seems also sold on losing on the nuclear option because Democrat polling indicates their position is viewed as more in line with the public’s on judges and the role of Congress. This, despite Republican polling that showed the Democrats took bigger hits in their approval numbers compared to Republicans for their actions related to the judicial obstruction fight.p> HOWIE’S LATEST PHANTOM
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