Senate GOP ready to go nuclear -- with a side of tactical

Senate GOP ready to go nuclear -- with a side of tactical

“It’s zero hour,” The Hill announces, which is almost true. A little later this morning, Mitch McConnell will trigger the Reid Option and recast precedent to make the filibuster out of order on all presidential nominations, the culmination of a process started by Harry Reid in late 2013. But will Republicans stop there — or will Democrats finally cave?

Let’s just say that McConnell plans to make it verrrry interesting. Not only will Democrats not have the filibuster on Gorsuch, they may end up with only a fraction of the normal time on future nominees too. They can also thank Harry Reid for this change, too:

The additional change under consideration would affect hundreds of Trump nominations.

It would reduce debate time after a nominee clears an initial procedural hurdle from 30 hours to eight hours, greatly reducing how long the Senate would need to confirm Trump nominees. …

The proposal would be similar to a provision from a 2013 resolution on limiting debate for most nominations.

The 2013 measure passed the Senate by a vote of 78-16 but only governed the rules for the 113th Congress. Democrats at the time held the majority in the Senate.

That change included an exemption for “executive schedule I” nominations, which include department secretaries and other top positions such as the director of the Office of Management and Budget and federal judges.

Until last night, Democrats may have expected Republicans to blink, but declarations from Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski last night clinched McConnell’s play. That alone might have prompted some Democrats to rethink their obstructionism before today’s showdown, but the second rule change ups the ante even further.

Not that it isn’t justified on its own. Reid pulled that one out of his hat in 2013 to deal with a significant number of appointments in a short period of time, so the precedent exists within the partisan-warfare mood of the Senate already. Democrats have gone full obstructionist on Trump appointments, using procedural tricks to delay confirmation as long as possible on practically every Cabinet appointment. What better way to make them pay for that privilege than to reimpose yet another Reid innovation on the Democratic minority?

Frankly, anything that limits the posing on the final round of speeches sounds like a good idea, but Democrats certainly won’t think so. Facing this second rule change and having no way to stop it either, some of those red-state Senate Democrats might be rethinking their commitment to obstructionism and to Chuck Schumer. Don’t be surprised if we start hearing about a deal this morning, but also don’t be surprised if we don’t. The progressive base is forcing Democrats into this demonstration of political seppuku, and neither strategic nor tactical considerations have made a whit of difference so far.

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