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December 21, 2014

Posts in "nuclear option"

December 19, 2014

How the Nuclear Option Changed the Judiciary

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

For Sen. Harry Reid, going “nuclear” set the groundwork for his last great act of the 113th Congress.

A little more than a year after Senate Democrats deployed the “nuclear option” to effectively change the Senate rules on nominations with a simple majority, Democrats up and down Pennsylvania Avenue generally seem happy with the changes, even as the Senate shifts to Republican control for 2015.

White House Counsel Neil Eggleston on Wednesday highlighted the 134 judges confirmed in the 113th Congress alone, saying that was 44 percent of the total confirmed during President Barack Obama’s tenure. That number included 132 federal district and circuit judges, according to Senate Democrats.

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December 10, 2014

Senate GOP Wrestles With Whether to Undo the Nuclear Option

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Graham wants Republicans to defuse the nuclear option and return the 60-vote threshold on nominations. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

After crying foul when Democrats used the nuclear option to essentially eliminate the filibuster for most nominations, Senate Republicans are wrestling with whether to change it back.

Republicans, who will take over the majority next Congress, met Tuesday evening to discuss the matter, but reached no decision on a course of action. Full story

October 30, 2014

The Attack Ads Harry Reid Didn’t Want You to See

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Harry Reid’s strategy of blocking amendments all year was intended with one clear objective in mind — protecting his majority.

Republicans have complained vociferously about the Senate majority leader shutting down amendments — but behind the scenes, the Nevada Democrat’s senators asked him to do so for a very simple reason: Nobody wants to give an opponent fodder for 30-second ads in a tough election year.

Reid’s strategy had a downside, because Democrats had fewer opportunities to show their independence from an unpopular president.

But aside from that attack, Republicans have been left mostly to mine earlier votes from, for instance, the 2013 budget resolution vote-a-rama — or for parts of the Affordable Care Act they voted for years ago.

Here are some of the subjects — and TV attack lines — Reid’s strategy sought to avoid: Full story

September 23, 2014

Ginsburg Won’t Resign, Notes Senate Kept Filibuster for SCOTUS Despite ‘Nuclear Option’

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg sounds like she might have retired from the Supreme Court if Senate Democrats went a step further with the “nuclear option.”

In an interview with Elle magazine, the 81-year-old associate justice pointed to the fact that filibusters of Supreme Court nominations are still allowed by the Senate.

“Who do you think President Obama could appoint at this very day, given the boundaries that we have? If I resign any time this year, he could not successfully appoint anyone I would like to see in the court,” Ginsburg said, pointing to the change in procedure that “took off the filibuster for lower federal court appointments, but it remains for this court.” Full story

September 15, 2014

Debo Adegbile Nomination Withdrawn, Returns to Private Practice (Updated)

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Adegbile. (Courtesy WilmerHale)

Updated 12:14 p.m. | Having seen his Senate confirmation blocked by members of President Barack Obama’s own party, Debo P. Adegbile has withdrawn from consideration to be an assistant attorney general.

“Debo Adegbile has withdrawn himself from consideration for a position at the Department of Justice, and we are actively working toward announcing a new nominee for the post,” a White House spokesperson told CQ Roll Call.

Formal word of the withdrawal comes after the law firm WilmerHale announced Adegbile’s move back to private practice Monday morning. Adegbile has joined as a partner.

Full story

July 31, 2014

Republicans Block Many Ambassador Nominations in ‘Nuclear Option’ Fallout (Updated)

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Menendez sought consent to confirm 25 ambassadors, including ambassadors to Russia and Guatemala. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 11:07 p.m. | The Senate may not be confirming nominees to posts in a slew of countries before departing for the August recess, but after some  procedural maneuvering, the U.S. will be getting a top diplomat in Russia.

Senators confirmed the nomination of John F. Tefft by voice vote as the chamber finished evening business after he faced objection to confirmation by unanimous consent earlier in the night.

The Senate’s nuclear fallout continued as the chamber worked into the night leading up until the break that will see no roll call votes until September 8. Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez faced a GOP objection to confirming a batch of 25 career foreign service officers to various ambassadorships, including President Barack Obama’s choice of Todd D. Robinson for the top diplomatic post in Guatemala, one of the key countries in the current crisis involving unaccompanied minors at the Southwest border.

Full story

July 28, 2014

As Ted Cruz Lifts Hold, Diplomats Have a Chance at Confirmation (Video)

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( Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

There’s a chance at least some of the ambassadors caught in a legislative holding pattern might be confirmed before the August recess.

While the process of filling the diplomatic corps has been slow in the aftermath of the “nuclear option” standoff last fall, Sen. Ted Cruz said Monday that he had withdrawn his more recent objection.

The Texas Republican had placed a hold on State Department nominees — a move with limited utility in the post-nuclear Senate where Democrats can break filibusters without any GOP votes. Cruz had placed the hold because of last week’s brief Federal Aviation Administration ban on flights by U.S. carriers to Tel Aviv, Israel.

Full story

July 21, 2014

Nomination Backlog Frustrates Administration, Democrats as August Looms

A pileup of nominations — particularly for scores of would-be U.S. ambassadors — has the Obama administration pushing hard for Senate action ahead of the August recess, while senators want to get home to campaign before the midterms.

There are 224 executive and 29 judicial nominations awaiting Senate action, according to the White House, including many whose lives have been on hold for a year or more. The Senate last year used the “nuclear option” to change the rules so a simple majority can confirm most nominations — and that move has shrunk the judicial backlog.

But a backlog has built up in executive branch nominees, including 56 ambassadors.

Last week, Secretary of State John Kerry called Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to voice concern over the pileup, and a State Department spokesman said the former Massachusetts senator was expected to speak by phone with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Monday while traveling in the Middle East.

“We hope the Senate will come to agreement to confirm nominees before heading into recess,” Assistant Secretary Doug Frantz said in a statement Monday. ”There is plenty of time remaining in July to do so, particularly if they can reach an agreement to approve the career nominees in a block as Secretary Kerry has proposed.”

“We are redoubling our efforts on ambassadors,” said a senior Senate Democratic aide. But that doesn’t necessarily mean Democrats are about to threaten the August break to confirm them.

“These ambassadors are America’s front lines, fighting to defend our interests abroad — our security interests, our national interests, and our economic interests,” Reid said last week. ”Right now, there are gaping holes in our nation’s front lines. … A quarter of all American embassies are without an ambassador.”

After the rules change, Republicans retaliated by slow-walking numerous nominees; the rules change allowed a simple majority to advance nominees but kept in place time limits that allow Republicans to force Democrats to burn days of floor time to get to a final vote.

“Some Senate observers say that Republicans are stalling these nominations as payback for the rules changes instituted by the Senate,” Reid said. “Let me see if I can wrap my head around this — Republicans are stalling executive nominees vital to our national security to get back at Democrats? To get back at me? Stalling these nominees is jeopardizing America’s interests abroad. It is damaging our nation’s role in global affairs. It is damaging our national security. Is this conjured-up political retribution worth harming the U.S.?”

Republicans say Democrats only have themselves to blame.

“Their complaint assumes there should be no consequences for Majority Leader Reid breaking the rules of the Senate to change the rules on the processing of nominations,” the Senate Republican Policy Committee wrote in an issue brief. “The consequences of that act were predictable. Senator Obama predicted the consequences himself when a rules change was contemplated in 2005, saying, ‘If they choose to change the rules and put an end to democratic debate, then the fighting, the bitterness, and the gridlock will only get worse.’”

The nominations backlog in the ambassadorial ranks has been a recurring topic of discussion at the regular State Department press briefings in recent weeks.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki likened the Kerry proposal to accelerate career appointees to the way the Senate treats military promotions.

“And just to not to put too fine a point on it, obviously for America to continue to play a strong role in the world, we need equal treatment for diplomats, we need to have ambassadors and our representatives on the front lines in these countries around the world,” she said on July 9.

Asked if the nuclear option has contributed to the backlog, Psaki dismissed the contention.

“There has been a logjam in the Senate on the Senate floor about nominations and legislation long before … Majority Leader Reid moved forward with the nuclear option several months ago. That was put in place because there was a complete deadlock on getting anything done in the Senate at all,” she said.

Democrats have also highlighted delays of top veterans’ officials — some waiting more than a year for confirmation even as the crisis at the Department of Veterans Affairs unfolded.

Numerous other would-be officials are awaiting their fate. If they don’t get confirmation before the August recess, they’ll be waiting months longer for confirmation — or be stalled forever — given that the Senate will have a limited schedule before the November elections and faces a lame-duck session where floor time will be at a premium.

At some point, Senate Democrats could deploy the nuclear option again to cut down on what the Senate aide calls the “slow-motion temper tantrum.”

At the beginning of this Congress in January 2013, the chamber adopted a bipartisan agreement that reduced the post-cloture debate time for certain nominations. That agreement will expire at the end of the year.

If they manage to maintain the majority, Democrats would have to either negotiate time rules with Republicans or use the nuclear option again.

Given the mounting frustrations, “If it comes to a head, the caucus will be more supportive,” the aide predicted.

Correction 6:42 p.m.

An earlier version of this post misattributed the quote from the Republican Policy Committee.

 

May 22, 2014

McConnell Wants to Keep Filibuster if GOP Gets Majority

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(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., doesn’t favor getting rid of the filibuster — even if the GOP takes the majority next year. But he stressed that Democrats have set a precedent for changing the Senate rules on a simple majority vote.

“I think the supermajority requirement in the Senate has been important to the country,” McConnell said, adding that he believe Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has done “a lot of damage” to the institution. Full story

May 21, 2014

Paul Predicts Democrats Will Back Barron, Doesn’t Plan Extended Speech (Updated) (Video)

paul 023 030513 445x298 Paul Predicts Democrats Will Back Barron, Doesnt Plan Extended Speech (Updated) (Video)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 3:15 p.m. | Sen. Rand Paul wore comfortable shoes to work today, but it doesn’t look like he’s going to hold the floor for hours.

The Kentucky Republican told a small cadre of reporters gathered just off the Senate floor following a 31-minute speech contesting the Obama administration’s use of drones for targeted killings of Americans that he didn’t think he could stall confirmation of David J. Barron to be a First Circuit appeals court judge.

“They wouldn’t give me the extensive time today,” Paul said. “I am going to speak probably right before the vote and try to convince some people. I don’t think I’m having much luck though.”

Full story

May 20, 2014

Democrats Eye ‘Nuclear Option’ Redux

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid raised the specter of another “nuclear” rules confrontation with the GOP if Republicans don’t stop their delaying tactics on nominations.

“I’m not interested in changing the rules now. But now is a relative term,” the Nevada Democrat told reporters Tuesday.

A senior Senate Democratic aide said Democrats would “very seriously consider” changes if they retain the majority, including using the “nuclear option” to change the rules on a simple majority vote. Senate rules require a two-thirds majority to change the rules, but Democrats pushed through a rules change last year eliminating the 60-vote threshold for all nominations except those for the Supreme Court. They did so by overturning the ruling of the chairman with a simple majority vote.
Full story

Reid Hints at ‘Nuclear’ Summer Over Debate Time (Video) (Updated)

reid 225 032614 445x294 Reid Hints at Nuclear Summer Over Debate Time (Video) (Updated)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 3:30 p.m. | On the morning of his Republican counterpart’s primary back home in Kentucky, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he would not change the chamber’s rules in his absence.

But Minority Leader Mitch McConnell might well be advised to be prepared for another floor standoff over consideration of nominations, even if its unclear just how much the

Reid took to the floor to reprise familiar complaints about GOP delays of nominations, although some of his examples didn’t appear to be held up today.

“I don’t plan on changing the rules today again, but how much longer can we put up with this? Even law enforcement officers … even law enforcement officers, as I’ve indicated here, they’re holding them up for no reason,” Reid said. “You don’t hear people coming down here giving speeches about what horrible people the president selected to be the U.S. attorney in Louisiana, New Mexico and Connecticut, not a word. They just hide behind their obstruction.”

But not long after, the Senate locked-in a unanimous consent agreement setting up consideration of the three U.S. attorneys on Wednesday, with confirmation for each possible by voice vote.

Full story

April 14, 2014

‘Nuclear’ Nominations Aftermath Slows Senate to Crawl

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( Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Just how many of President Barack Obama’s nominees will get confirmed this year? If last week is any indication, the answer may depend on whether Democrats once again employ the “nuclear” option to effectively change the Senate’s rules.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made a big deal last week about scheduling nomination votes on the Friday before recess, but with senators in both parties eager to jet out of town, the Nevada Democrat was forced to punt.

“We are slogging through these nominations,” Reid said April 10 on the Senate floor. “It is kind of slow because of the inordinate amount of time that we are caused to eat up.”

Reid pondered on the floor whether he should have gone even further on rules changes last year, given the Republican slow-walking of nominations whose confirmations have become a fait accompli, and he lamented that a minimum wage debate he hoped to have on the Senate floor before the break was delayed as a result. Full story

February 28, 2014

Mumia Abu-Jamal Case Reverberates in Senate Nomination Fight

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A protestor stands next to an image of Abu-Jamal in 2012. (AFP/Getty Images)

President Barack Obama’s nomination of Debo P. Adegbile to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has unleashed a decades-old racial feud centered on the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal that threatens to cross partisan lines and give credence to Senate Republican worries that more controversial nominees will be confirmed since Democrats eased the process last year.

The Senate is scheduled to vote on cloture on the Adegbile nomination Monday evening. Adegbile, senior counsel for Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., previously worked for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, which helped commute the death sentence of Abu-Jamal, a black nationalist who was convicted and sentenced to death in 1982 for the murder of white Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner.

Senate Democrats control 55 votes in the Senate and only need 51 to clear the hurdle. But it is likely to be close, as one of their own, Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania announced Friday he would oppose the nomination, and several Democrats up for re-election in swing or conservative states might think twice about wading into the hornets’ nest that surrounds Abu-Jamal.

The case goes back to a dark period in Philadelphia history, when the MOVE group of black separatists clashed frequently with the Philadelphia political and law enforcement community.   Full story

February 3, 2014

Reid Second-Most Likely Dem to Vote Against Obama in 2013

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Senate was so polarized in 2013 that the Democratic senator who was the second most likely to oppose President Barack Obama was … Majority Leader Harry Reid.

That’s not to say the Nevadan actually opposed Obama at all. Rather, on 10 separate votes on which the president had a clear position included on the CQ Roll Call scorecard, Reid voted no for procedural reasons. Being on the prevailing side of a vote allowed Reid to enter a motion to reconsider, preserving the opportunity to call it up again later.

Full story

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