Senators will meet tonight in the Old Senate Chamber, and while no formal business will take place, members will use the gathering to see if they can still work something out on executive-branch filibusters. If not, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) insists he has the votes in place to execute the nuclear option.
(Note Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell objected to tonight’s meeting, saying Reid was trying to sabotage the get-together by scheduling it for a Monday night, when senators don’t usually have to work.)
Since there’s only one obvious way out of this showdown – Republicans can agree to allow the Senate to vote up or down on executive-branch nominees – and the GOP minority refuses to consider it, the nuclear option appears increasingly likely. There is, however, a “gang” emerging.
[A] group of Republicans are talking to the Democratic leader, hoping to meld a framework that would allow the Senate to head off the historic rules change proposed by the Democrats, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told POLITICO after meeting with Reid Monday afternoon.
In other words, there could be a new gang in town to stave off the nuclear option, which would allow Reid to end filibusters of executive branch nominees with only 51 votes, rather than 60. Much of that gang includes Republicans who worked on immigration reform, McCain said.
You may recall that in 2005, there was a Senate Republican majority eager to execute the nuclear option – it was, after all, their idea – when it came to judicial nominees. The fight was sidestepped when a “Gang of 14” got together to work out an agreement, which has since been discarded.
And what might a deal look like in this case?
McCain said he and Republicans are trying to strike a deal with Reid would either allow up-or-down votes on seven contentious nominees or at least find “replacements” for those nominees. Reid has scheduled votes Tuesday on seven of Obama’s nominees, including the National Labor Relations Board picks, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as well as leaders to head the Labor Department, Export-Import Bank and Environmental Protection Agency.
I’ll resist the urge to scrutinize this without more detail, but finding “replacements” doesn’t seem like a credible alternative. President Obama was elected – twice – and has nominated qualified officials to fill posts in his administration. A majority of the Senate is prepared to vote for those nominees. What more is there to talk about?
McCain is thinking about a system in which the minority “allows” the Senate to vote – how nice of them – but only if the president picks different officials? Perhaps nominees that the minority finds appealing?
McCain pegged his group’s chances at avoiding the rules change at “50-50.”
Watch this space.