Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is making moves to advance his filibuster reform plan for executive branch nominees, despite his January promise to leave the filibuster alone during this Congress.
On Wednesday, Reid refused to pledge not to exercise the so-called nuclear option after demands from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. The nuclear option would allow filibusters to be broken by a simple majority vote of 51 senators instead of the current required supermajority of 60 votes.
McConnell argued against the move, stating that Republicans have not blocked a single executive nominee this year.
But Reid has already met with about two dozen Democrats to discuss the issue, according to Politico. His main targets are senators who have experienced life in the minority party and are therefore skeptical to changes.
Some Democrats, like Senator Jay Rockefeller, are wary of changing the filibuster rules because they fear Republicans, once in control of Congress once more, will use the nuclear option to repeal Obamacare.
“If they take over the White House and the Senate, they will get rid of the healthcare bill in a shot. We can do business the way we are,” said Rockefeller, according to Politico.
McConnell referred to Reid’s filibuster fight as part of the Democratic “culture of intimidation.”
“Their view is you had better confirm the people we want when we want them, or we’ll break the rules of the Senate to change the rules so you can’t stop us,” McConnell said.
Reid must be wary in his further advances for filibuster reform, for he risks losing Republican support with the immigration bill on the Senate floor over the summer.
Still, he accused Republicans of ignoring the Founders’ intent “by creating… an unworkable standard whereby the weakest of rationales is often cited as sufficient basis for blocking major nominees.”
With several Democrats hesitant, it seems fairly certain that Reid’s fight won’t reach the floor anytime soon.
A few nominations that have faced delays for Senate votes include positions in the Environmental Protection Agency, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the National Labor Relations Board, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.