Reid threat­ens again to change fil­i­buster rules

Says GOP still de­lays Obama nom­i­nees

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY STEPHEN DI­NAN AND DAVID SHERFIN­SKI

Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Harry Reid raised the pos­si­bil­ity Tues­day of an­other rules change to cur­tail fil­i­busters, say­ing he is in­creas­ingly frus­trated that Repub­li­cans are stick­ing to the let­ter of the rules and de­lay­ing ac­tion on dozens of Pres­i­dent Obama’s nom­i­na­tions.

In the past, many of those nom­i­nees would have been ap­proved in hand­shake deals, but af­ter Mr. Reid first changed the fil­i­buster last year, us­ing the “nu­clear op­tion” to side­line Repub­li­cans, the cham­ber has been in a sort of leg­isla­tive cold war.

Mr. Reid is able to even­tu­ally win any nom­i­na­tions his party wants, but Se­nate Repub­li­cans make him use ev­ery minute al­lot­ted un­der the rules, which of­ten means hav­ing to wait days longer than he wanted.

The Ne­vada Demo­crat on Tues­day said Repub­li­cans were “pout­ing” and that he is con­sid­er­ing an­other change.

“I don’t plan on chang­ing the rules to­day, again, but how much longer can we put up with this?” he said as he opened the cham­ber.

Hours later, pressed by re­porters, Mr. Reid said he won’t make a change now, “but ‘now’ is a rel­a­tive term.”

Last year’s rules change proved to be deeply di­vi­sive but also in­cred­i­bly suc­cess­ful for Mr. Reid. Un­der the new rules, it takes just a ma­jor­ity vote to end a fil­i­buster on most nom­i­nees, and Mr. Reid has used that to push through sev­eral judges and other nom­i­nees that other­wise would have been blocked by Repub­li­can fil­i­busters.

Repub­li­cans are bristling at the new fil­i­buster rules and the way Mr. Reid im­posed them — us­ing a par­lia­men­tary tac­tic to change the rules with only Demo­cratic sup­port rather than the usual bi­par­ti­san, two-thirds vote most Se­nate rule changes re­quire.

“Well, it was a bad idea the first time, and it’s a bad idea this time,” said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the sec­ond-rank­ing Repub­li­can in the cham­ber.

Repub­li­cans ac­cuse Mr. Reid of run­ning the Se­nate as a tyrant and sin­gle-hand­edly shut­ting down de­bate for Democrats and Repub­li­cans.

On Tues­day, Mr. Reid said he has no re­grets about us­ing par­lia­men­tary tools to block de­bate.

“If that makes me pow­er­ful, that’s too bad, be­cause the only rea­son that we’re do­ing this is be­cause for 51/2 years, ev­ery­thing that this pres­i­dent’s tried to do, they’ve stepped in the way,” he said.

Mr. Reid may be tak­ing his lead on chang­ing the rules from Pres­i­dent Obama, who prod­ded the Se­nate last week. Speak­ing to donors at a Demo­cratic fundraiser, Mr. Obama said law­mak­ers need to change “how a fil­i­buster works.”

Mr. Reid’s im­me­di­ate re­ac­tion at the time was to ques­tion the pres­i­dent. “Does he know we al­ready did that?” the Se­nate leader asked.

Mr. Reid said this week that he has grown im­pa­tient with Repub­li­can de­lays on ap­prov­ing ex­ec­u­tive branch po­si­tions. He said Repub­li­cans were fil­i­bus­ter­ing nom­i­nees to serve as U.S. at­tor­neys in New Mex­ico, Louisiana and Con­necti­cut. Repub­li­cans called the charges non­sense. “There hasn’t been a sin­gle ‘fil­i­buster’ of a U.S. at­tor­ney this Congress,” said Don Ste­wart, a spokesman for Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, Ken­tucky Repub­li­can. “He hasn’t filed clo­ture on any of them be­cause they all clear. Even the ones he men­tioned on the floor to­day had al­ready cleared our side.”

Even Mr. Reid has found fault with some of Mr. Obama’s picks.

He said he will op­pose Judge Michael Boggs, who sits on a state ap­peals court in Ge­or­gia and whom Mr. Obama has tapped for a federal judge­ship. Democrats said that as a leg­is­la­tor, Judge Boggs voted for pro-life mea­sures, op­posed same-sex mar­riage and voted to pre­serve the state flag that in­cluded a Con­fed­er­ate em­blem.

“I do not sup­port him,” Mr. Reid told re­porters. Still to be seen is whether, de­spite his op­po­si­tion, Mr. Reid will al­low a floor vote — a vote that could prove em­bar­rass­ing to Mr. Obama no mat­ter which way it goes.

Mr. Reid also has faced ques­tions within his own cau­cus over David J. Bar­ron, a Har­vard Law School pro­fes­sor who, when he served in the Obama Jus­tice Depart­ment, wrote some of the le­gal rea­son­ing jus­ti­fy­ing the use of drones to kill ter­ror­ism sus­pects who are U.S. cit­i­zens.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Harry Reid, Ne­vada Demo­crat, raises the pos­si­bil­ity Tues­day of an­other rules change to cur­tail fil­i­busters, say­ing he’s in­creas­ingly frus­trated that Repub­li­cans are de­lay­ing ac­tion on dozens of Pres­i­dent Obama’s nom­i­na­tions.

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