Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, the upper-chamber’s outgoing Democratic leader, is unmoved by Republican posturing surrounding judicial nominees, vowing Senate Democrats will change the body’s rules to require only 51 votes for confirmation.
Reid altered the rules for confirming the president’s nominees in 2013 when he was Majority Leader, eliminating the filibuster for all judicial nominations (the so-called “nuclear option”), except for the U.S. Supreme Court.
Though benefits accrued to Democrats in the short-term (they were able to confirm several solid liberal jurists to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, for example), even Reid felt trepidation about nuking the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees — many Democrats took to the recourse of the filibuster in attempting to block the nomination of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito. With the prospect of another Democratic president and an intractable Republican conference looming over November’s horizon, Reid abandoned whatever apprehension he felt, promising to extend the nuclear option to Supreme Court nominees as well. (RELATED: McCain: GOP Will Block Hillary’s Supreme Court Nominees)
“I really do believe that I have set the Senate so when I leave, we’re going to be able to get judges done with a majority,” he told Talking Points Memo in a wide-ranging interview about his legacy. “It takes only a simple majority anymore. And, it’s clear to me that if the Republicans try to filibuster another circuit court judge, but especially a Supreme Court justice, I’ve told them how and I’ve done it, not just talking about it. I did it in changing the rules of the Senate. It’ll have to be done again.”
“They mess with the Supreme Court, it’ll be changed just like that in my opinion,” Reid said, snapping his fingers together. “So I’ve set that up. I feel very comfortable with that.”
Reid’s swagger may be a moot point. Republicans may retain control of the Senate in the November election, meaning any proposed rule changes would be promulgated by the GOP. Should the Democrats seize the chamber, Sen. Chuck Schumer will succeed Reid as Majority Leader in January, placing such decisions under his purview. Reid is not seeking reelection and will retire after the end of the year.
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