You may have seen Heather's piece on this story yesterday, but it merits a second spin. The White House and the vast bureaucracy of the federal government are laboring through a fundamental crisis of credibility. Scandals swirl. The powerful Internal Revenue Service has been caught abusing its power to target and harass the ruling party's opposition. The Department of Justice has launched an unprecedented affront against press freedom. The Department of State manipulated intelligence about a terrorist attack to mask their negligence and stave off political blame. The Secretary of Health and Human Services is unethically (and possibly illegally) coercing the industry over which she wields sweeping regulatory authority. And against that backdrop of power and partisanship run amok, the Senate Majority Leader is reportedly preparing to kneecap long-standing, bipartisan rights of the minority party -- and he's doing so with the president's blessing. Impeccable timing:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is increasingly focused on the month of July as the time to exercise the so-called “nuclear option” and revisit filibuster reform, and he has privately told top advisers that he’s all but certain to take action if the Senate GOP blocks three upcoming key nominations, a senior Senate Democratic aide familiar with his thinking tells me. Reid has privately consulted with President Obama on the need to revisit filibuster reform, and the President has told the Majority Leader that he will support the exercising of the nuclear option if Reid opts for it, the aide says, adding that senior Democrats expect the President to publicly push for it as well. “If Senator Reid decides to do something on nominations, the president has said he’ll be there to support him,” the aide says. Reid is eyeing a change to the rules that would do away with the 60-vote threshold on all judicial and executive branch nominations, the aide says, on the theory that this is a good way to immediately break an important logjam in Washington — without changing the rules when it comes to legislation.
Both Obama and Reid objected strenuously to this exact idea when Republicans proposed it in 2005, natch, as did pretty much every Democrat within shouting distance of a microphone:
The Bush-era "nuclear" Senate stand-off was defused by the 'Gang of 14,' which remains intact today -- on judicial nominations, at least. Republicans have only mounted filibusters against a tiny handful of the president's most radical judge selections. Democrats are also looking to wipe out filibusters against executive appointments, as the GOP has stifled a number of extreme nominees Obama has put forward to groups like the NRLB. The White House sought to circumvent Congress on this score by making a series of "recess" appointments while Congress was...not in recess. In doing so, they undercut a practice Democrats pioneered to thwart would-be Bush recess appointments. Several federal courts have since dealt legal blows to these non-recess "recess" gambit,s which may explain Reid's new-found sense of urgency. I reached out to Mitch McConnell's office for comment, but they declined to wade into this until they get a better handle on whether they're dealing with a real threat or more bluster from Reid. One thing is very clear, based on multiple discussions with senior Republican Senate aides: Given how poisonous the political climate already is, a move by Democrats to change the Senate rules would push the chamber into full partisan meltdown.